The National Monument is located near the former SS concentration camp in Vught. The history of this site is told as respectfully as possible on the basis of personal stories from the people involved. By telling stories of private individuals that speak the most to visitors, they gain better understanding of the bigger picture of the war and the Nazi regime. It was a particularly tough job to achieve. On the one hand, attention needed to be drawn to the existence of perpetrators, victims and ‘observers’ and how their roles took shape. How did any of those people think and act? Youngsters, often on school outings, are part of the target audience. On the other hand, the museum should also be accessible to people who are somehow emotionally involved. And, of course, to people who wish to commemorate the Second World War.
The final area of the exhibition resembles a relaxed pub except you can’t buy any drinks. What purpose does this room serve? Made-up newspapers, with moving images instead of photos, are on the tables next to real ones. Scenes from a pub, in which people hold ordinary conversations, are projected on a nine-metre long wall. While walking through this area of the exhibition you might overhear some people give their opinion on democracy. You can also witness the reaction of the other visitors when a rather unusual person enters the pub. In the background, a colour television set shows newscasts. A man and a woman are sitting at a table. The woman says: “If you really love me, you would …”. A clear example of emotional blackmail. Visitors might question the purpose of this mixture of conversations and newspaper reports. They might engage in a discussion or it might urge them to think about it. The exhibition does not end in this final area, it just leaves visitors with a clear message: always keep thinking and judging for yourself, even if it deviates from collective opinions or the law.
The exhibitions are highly regarded by both school groups and former prisoners. One woman, who had loaned objects to the exhibition, said at the opening: “You can keep my objects; they have found a proper home.”
In 2003 the National Monument Camp Vught was awarded the ICODO second price for its redesign.