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Material evidence

Last month, Dr Sofia Pantouvaki, Professor of Costume Design, Aalto University, Helsinki visited the Sydney Jewish Museum. She met with survivors and viewed our collection of concentration camp garments. Her ongoing research examines clothing from concentration and labour camps during World War II, investigating the material evidence together with the testimony of survivors. Whilst the most familiar and recognisable type of camp clothing is the striped uniform, an array of other garments, including civilian clothing marked in specific ways, was used to identify camp inmates.

Sofia was enthusiastic to view a recent acquisition to our collection, that of an Auschwitz camp uniform with striped trousers and a non-matching plain grey fabric jacket. In opening the collection up to an expert eye, I was delighted that Sofia was able to identify another garment in our collection that we have always regarded as a dress – due to its length – as a coat!

In these images you can see Sofia examining items of camp clothing while Kathleen Szabo, a costume researcher, is measuring the garments in order to make patterns of their cut. Using these patterns the researcher will compare garments from different camps and trace their provenance.

Author: Roslyn Sugarman, Head Curator