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Monthly Archives: December 2012

HitlerGhettoCattelan

Source: The Guardian, December 28, 2012

A statue of Adolf Hitler praying on his knees has sparked controversy after going on display in the former Warsaw ghetto.

The artwork by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, titled Him, has been installed in the Polish capital where thousands of Jews were killed or sent to their deaths by the Nazi regime.

The statue has attracted large numbers of visitors since its installation last month, but some organisations have criticised the decision to erect it in such a sensitive area.

One Jewish advocacy group, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, described the statue’s placement as “a senseless provocation which insults the memory of the Nazis’ Jewish victims”.

“As far as the Jews were concerned, Hitler’s only ‘prayer’ was that they be wiped off the face of the earth,” the group’s Israel director, Efraim Zuroff, said in a statement.

The Hitler statue is visible from a hole in a wooden gate and viewers can only see the back of the small figure praying in a courtyard.

Cattelan has not made it clear what Hitler is praying for, although organisers of the exhibition in which it features claim the statue is meant to make people reflect on the nature of evil.

Fabio Cavallucci, director of the Centre for Contemporary Art, which oversaw the installation, said: “There is no intention from the side of the artist or the centre to insult Jewish memory.

“It’s an artwork that tries to speak about the situation of hidden evil everywhere.”

It is estimated that about 300,000 Jews who lived in the ghetto either died from hunger or disease or were sent to their deaths in concentration camps under the Nazi rule.

Poland’s chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich, said he was consulted on the installation’s placement but did not oppose it because it conveyed a strong moral question by provoking the audience.

He said he was reassured by the organisers who told him the statue did not aim to rehabilitate Hitler but instead show that evil can present itself in the guise of a “sweet praying child”.

“I felt there could be educational value to it,” Schudrich added.

 

The girl in the red coat is the most famous symbol in Schindler’s List, and has become one of the popular icons of Holocaust visual culture. But what is its meaning? According to director Steven Spielberg the red coat – the only color image in the film, apart from the Shabbat candles in the opening and the final scene at Schindler’s grave in Jerusalem – evokes the “red flag” the Jews waved at the Allied powers during World War II as a cry for help.

The red coat detail is described by Thomas Keneally in his novel Schindler’s Ark (the book on which the film is based). It comes from the true story of a little girl named Gittel who was well-known in the Kraków Ghetto and actually used to wear a red coat (she was killed in the liquidation of the ghetto on March 13th, 1943).

So, in the ghetto massacre sequence, this symbol stands for the innocence of the Jews murdered by the Nazis and directly speaks to Schindler’s conscience turning a war-profiteer into a hero. But how?

Few spectators noticed that the red coat turns into b/w when Schindler isn’t able to perceive the girl anymore (she escapes and hides under a bed).

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This is a turning point in the film and in its melodramatic structure. What we have here is the visualization of Oskar Schindler’s psychological process. The viewer of the film is asked to identify not only with Schindler’s gaze but with his sudden awareness that the gray, anonymous mass of people murdered by Nazis is composed in fact of innocent individuals. This affective personalization is the ultimate attempt to conceive the immensity of genocide in terms of individual human life, dismissing its abstract, unintelligible dimension. That’s why the child is visually set apart from the crowd through the red color. But this color only exists in Schindler’s gaze, in a sort of dreamish sequence.

The sequence that follows is figuratively linked to the ghetto massacre scene. Now we see Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes) on the balcony of his house in Plaszow Camp randomly shooting at the prisoners. As in the ghetto sequence, the point-of-view shot invites the spectator’s identification with Goeth’s gaze. But the target of the shooting is now anonymous, almost abstract and stylized.

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A sort of routine is suggested here, the everydayness of evil and murder. But, what is most important, the sequence portrays dehumanization as a psychological process, through which moral inhibitions are removed and the enemy is perceived as less than human.

The red coat, as we have seen, stands for the exact opposite process.

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Source: The Jerusalem Post, December 7, 2012

Sweden has launched an investigation into an artist who made a painting out of Holocaust victims’ ashes, AFP reported Friday.

Police said the prosecutor’s office would investigate the case and was considering pressing charges against artist Carl Michael von Hausswolff. Police inspector Annika Johansson told AFP that authorities launched the investigation in response to a complaint filed by a member of the public, alleging the painting was “disturbing the peace of the dead.”

A Swedish art gallery owner has defended his gallery’s decision to show a painting made out of Holocaust victims’ ashes as “having no moral flaws.”

Martin Bryder, who owns a gallery in Lund, told Sverige Radio that he “sees no moral problem or flaw with exhibiting” a painting which the artist von Hausswolff made from ashes of Holocaust victims from the Majdanek extermination camp.

According to a local newspaper, Sydsvenskan, Von Hausswolff had collected the ashes more than 20 years ago. The exhibition is scheduled to open at the Martin Bryder Gallery in Lund on Dec. 15, according to the radio station.

Salomon Schulman, a teacher of Yiddish and member of Lund’s Jewish community, wrote in the same local newspaper that he found the display “disgusting” and called it “a desecration of Jewish bodies.”

He added: “Nowhere was the Third Reich more popular than among the educated academics. Today, the Holocaust and racism are still part of their salon talks.”

In a text published by the gallery, the artist is quoted as saying: “The ash has followed me, always been there … as if the ash contains energies or memories or souls of people … people tortured, tormented and murdered by other people in one of the 19th century’s most ruthless wars.”

The directorate of the museum at Majdanek is outraged by the art. “We are deeply shocked and outraged by the information that the painting allegedly was made with the ashes of Majdanek victims. This action is an artistic provocation deserving only to be condemned,” said a statement published on Wednesday by the museum staff.

“In addition, it is certain that the Swedish painter did not enter into possession of the ashes legally.”