Less grisly, but also frightening, is a room painted with a complex spiderweb of a chart tracing the chain of Nazi command, indirectly asking the delicate, dangerous question of who made the most dire decisions. "A lot of it depends on the commander's own initiative," said Taylor.

Ghetto artifacts include a funeral cart from the Warsaw ghetto and a pair of German snow boots made in workshops of the Lodz Ghetto. There is also a large model of Auschwitz, including terrible, riveting film footage of mass burials; the sad and familiar possessions -- shoes, household items, and prayer shawls -- found at the death camps; photos of the disturbingly guileless faces of Josef Mengele, Irma Grese, and others as civilians. Entry to the Holocaust Exhibition will be staggered, to avoid crowding. Explains Taylor, "You need a lot of space for grieving."

The videotaped reflections of survivors on what they have experienced leave visitors with nearly as many questions as they had when they stepped through the big metal doors into the exhibit. "Why me?" wonders Tauba Biber. "Why not my sister?" But of course, no museum can answer all questions.

The Imperial War Museum traces not only the military but also the social history of Britain's conflicts from World War I. It is housed in the former Bethlehem Royal Hospital, aka Bedlam. Among the exhibits is the second largest modern art collection in the country, after the Tate Gallery.

The Imperial War Museum is located at Lambeth Road, London SE1 6HZ; tel. 020 7416 5320. It is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission: £5.50 (about $8) for adults; students £4.50 (about $6.50); disabled visitors and caretakers £2.75 (about $4); children and senior citizens, free. Free admission from 4:30 p.m. daily.