Guest Post: Amanda Hemmingsen

Exploring the British Take on War

This time around, I sat through the entire video in the Crimes Against Humanity exhibit at the Imperial War Museum. When here in March, I made it to the Holocaust exhibit, but ran out of time for some of the others, of which the CAH exhibit was one. The video contained images of current crimes and past ones. There was an interview with a Holocaust survivor, and an interview with a middle aged woman standing next to a pile of skulls. The emotional pain she was exhibiting while telling the camera within the pile of bones lay everyone she knew.

I thought it was interesting that the first floor of the museum is filled with different machines used during WWI, while the third floor contains a chilling Holocaust exhibit and that Crimes Against Humanity video. The machines were a kind of glorification of war; a testament to human accomplishment and ingenuity. The third floor was a testament to the dark side of human achievement.

The fact that one museum houses both these ways of looking at war reveals a complicated take on war by the British population. One the one hand, there’s a complete awareness of all that is horrible in war. The third floor didn’t point fingers or cast blame, but it laid a certain responsibility at the feet of Europe. The first floor, in its simple offer of feats of technology, focused on what there is to be proud of during wars.

The British, unlike Americans, had war on their doorstep at the beginning of the 20th century. Because of that, and their powerful position within the world, they seem to be able to hold both the weight of the terrible and an appreciation of the wonderful that can be found during wartime. There is less glorification of winning and of war, and more appreciation of the idea that there are still numerous battles to be won for the sake of humankind.

- contributed by Amanda Hemmingsen

Amanda is a senior at the University of Kansas studying English. She hopes to attend graduate schools to pursue a Masters in English to later teach English at the college level. Amanda is from the Kansas City area and lives in Overland Park.  Contact her at Amandahem6@ku.edu