Displaying Violence in Memorial Museums – Reflections on the Use of Photographs


  • Ljiljana Radonić Institut für Kulturwissenschaften und Theatergeschichte, Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften




atrocity photographs, perpetrator-taken images, memorial museums


This article examines if and how memorial museums exhibit graphic atrocity photographs, including pictures of executions and decomposing corpses, images taken by perpetrators that humiliate the victims or depict the persecuted in a stereotypical, antisemitic, or racist way, and voyeuristic photographs showing (almost) naked people being persecuted before their execution. The contribution sets out with a brief introduction to the general history of the approach taken towards photographic material since 1945, before describing the transformation of its use in memorial museums – first in the much-discussed Western Holocaust and World War II context, but then also for the Asian-Pacific World War II theatre in China and Japan and with regard to the museumization of the more recent 1990s genocides in Bosnia- Herzegovina and Rwanda. Finally, I categorize exhibited images taken by perpetrators, liberators, victims (turning into survivors) etc. Whether or not museums decide to display such representations of violence, they pay a price and thus need to counterbalance their decision by well-reflected methods.





Radonić, L. (2023). Displaying Violence in Memorial Museums – Reflections on the Use of Photographs. Österreichische Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaften, 34(1), 59–84. https://doi.org/10.25365/oezg-2023-34-1-4



research paper