• Carla Vreeland

Art Expresses the Part of the Holocaust that Textbooks Can't

Most people have read accounts and heard stories portraying the conditions of Concentration Camps during the Second World War. However, these all fall remarkably short of the true trauma millions of people endured.


Arts created by the inhabitants of ghettos, concentration camps, and labour camps displayed at an exhibit in 2016 at the German Historical Museum in Berlin exemplify the emotion provoked by these experiences. The works not only reveal hurt and longing, but strength in the face of unimaginable hardship.

When asked about which pieces would be chosen to be displayed, Curator Walter Smerling explained that they had wanted the artwork to spark emotion and intrigue the onlookers.


“We selected work according to artistic considerations, and chose works that provoked us and made us wonder what story was behind the image,” Smerling said.


For some of the artists whose work is displayed in the exhibit, creating the piece and exploring different techniques and subject matter taught them how to cope with the feeling of complete hopelessness and a lack of control. For others, creating the artwork became an art of defiance.


Pavel Fantl, a doctor who would eventually be executed in Auschwitz in 1945, smuggled painting supplies by a guard at a Czech ghetto. Fantl critisized the Natzi party using humor and metaphors. The art told of blood on the hands of Hitler and the deceit spread through German occupied Europe.


Pavel Fantl, The Song is Over (1941-1944)


Art during a period of extreme suppression not only further expresses the poor living conditions of so many people and the lack of freedom they had to endure, but also gives the onlooker a unique opportunity to connect with the artist.


Sources:

https://www.bbc.com/culture/article/20160203-art-from-the-holocaust-the-stories-behind-the-images

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