Rethinking Authenticity of the Holocaust Experience Through Museum Architecture

“This is not a place of memory; this is a place of commemoration."


  • Xenia Tsiftsi School of Architecture, National Technical University of Athens


This article discusses the authenticity of the experience of the Holocaust through museum architecture. This issue arose during the writer’s visitor research conducted at European Jewish museums with the aim of examining the effect of the spatial design on Holocaust memory construction. From Aristotle and Plato to Benjamin and Heidegger and with the support of psychoanalytic concepts of Freud, Lacan, and Jung, we acknowledge different theories that approach the experiential and existential dimensions of authenticity; pursuing self-discovery and overcoming experiential challenges are the two central axes that will help us identify the different categories of visitors according to the kind of authenticity they quest for and the cause of its necessity. Moreover, the juxtaposition between the Museum and the actual site, such as a concentration camp, apart from raising questions of veracity and representation- which one provides a “real” account of the past? - posits problems of ethics, appropriation, materiality, narrativity, and empathy and, finally, leads to a salient issue: how different is memory from commemoration and which “locus” represents better each one of them; the Museum or the site? Is such a question legitimate?

Author Biography

Xenia Tsiftsi, School of Architecture, National Technical University of Athens

Xenia Tsiftsiis an archaeologist and art historian, with a Master of Arts degree in Museum Studies and a Master of Architecture in Design, Space and Culture. Currently, she is a PhD researcher and Teaching Assistant at the School of Architecture at the National Technical University of Athens. Her research interests lie in politics of shaping collective memory and national/community identity through the bodily experience of space. Herparticular focus is on Holocaust memory construction through museum architecture across European countries. Her most recent publication is: “Libeskind and the Holocaust Metanarrative: from discourse to architecture”in the “TRANSMEDIATING CULTURE(S)?” Special Issue of the Open Cultural Studies Journal (De Gruyter, 2017). She is a member of the Memory Studies Association and of the International Media and Nostalgia Network.


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How to Cite

Tsiftsi, X. (2018). Rethinking Authenticity of the Holocaust Experience Through Museum Architecture: “This is not a place of memory; this is a place of commemoration.". Journal of Narrative and Language Studies, 6(10), 17–36. Retrieved from



Narrative and Authenticity