German Chancellor Angela Merkel Opens an Exhibition on Holocaust Art at German Historical Museum

Art News

January 25, 2016

The horrors of World War II, the murders, the life in ghettoes and concentration camps are main topics depicted in Holocaust art. These visual testimonies of the inhuman hardships that their creators had to endure will be exhibited at the most comprehensive exhibition of Holocaust art at German Historical Museum in Berlin. Angela Merkel will open the exhibition, that will include 100 works that originate from various concentration camps and ghettos and that are a part of the collection of Holocaust memorial center in Israel named Yad Vashem. Through a series of these emotional and beautiful artworks, the upcoming exhibit will only prove that no matter what chains, barb wire surrounded camps and other forms of imprisonment are imposed on us, the human soul ultimately remains free.

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Leo Breuer - Path between the Barracks, 1941

Holocaust Art at German Historical Museum in Berlin

Holocaust art was made in inhumane conditions and in absolute secrecy because the detection of the artwork often resulted in the death of its author. On the artworks, we can see both representations of cruelties that the artists went through daily, but also depictions of personal perspective, hopes for liberation and dreams that never die. Depictions of people beaten and bruised are interrupted by the representations of careless past and the portrayals of bright feature. "Each work of art from our unique collection constitutes a living testimony from the Holocaust, as well as a declaration of the indomitable human spirit that refuses to surrender." - said Avner Shalev from Yad Vashem center. The exhibition entitled Art from the Holocaust: 100 Works from Yad Vashem Collection, is an extensive group show which is why it is organized into three different parts - reality, portraits and transcendence. The first part, concerning reality, is dedicated to the brutal treatment of the artists and other prisoners. The omnipresent fear of death is portrayed through a series of dramatic moments, such as the deportation from homes, the life in the ghettoes, the violence and atrocities inflicted upon the mostly Jewish prisoners. Numerous representations of the concentration and labor camps (those abhorrent symbols of repression and imprisonment) convey the sense of alienation, hopelessness and despair.

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Left : Jacob Lipschitz - Beaten (My Brother Gedalyahu), 1941 – 1944 / Right : Karl Robert Bodek / Kurt Conrad Löw - One Spring, 1941

Art from the Holocaust: 100 Works from Yad Vashem Collection

The second part of the exhibit represent portraits as tools of retaining the person's soul and individuality in these difficult moments. Through a series of portraits and self-portraits, they discarded the role of prisoners and victims and regained their previous unique personalities. These artworks transcend the tyranny of the moment and depict the subjects as they wanted to be remembered by the future generations- as unique, inimitable and unforgettable human beings. One of best-known Holocaust artists Charlotte Salomon, will be represented with several artworks including self-portrait assigned to this sector. The artist that was murdered upon her arrival in Auschwitz uses green and gray color palette to depict her state of mind during her final days.

The final section of the showcase is dedicated to transcendence, because many Holocaust artists used their work as a mean of escaping the harsh reality. The house motifs appear frequently in these images thus conveying the nostalgia for their pre-camp life while the portrayals of the beautiful vast landscapes and blue skies powerfully evoke their need for freedom and constant battle for survival. For instance, artist Leo Breuer collaborated with Karl Robert Bodek to create the design for their camp cabaret and numerous barb wire inspired greeting cards. The artwork depicting a yellow butterfly standing on top of a barb wire created by Karl Robert Bodek and Kurt Conrad Löw powerfully conveys both their desire for escape and the chains that prevent it.

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Leo (Lev) Haas - Transport Arrival, 1942

Angela Merkel Opens the 2016 Exhibition

The exhibition Art from the Holocaust: 100 Works from Yad Vashem Collection will be on view from January 26 till April 3rd, 2016 at the German Historical Museum in Berlin. The group show will feature paintings and drawings that were created between 1939 and 1945 by 50 artists, 24 of which were murdered by the Nazis. Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany will open the exhibition that is just one in the series of happenings, that will commemorate the Holocaust Remembrance Day and 50 years of German and Israeli diplomatic relations. The exhibition will include works both widely known artists, but also an array of less-known pieces.

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Featured images : Nelly Toll - Girls in the Field, 1943 ; Moritz Müller - Rooftops in the Winter, 1944 ; Left : Bedřich Fritta - Rear entrance, 1941 – 1944 / Right : Josef Kowner - Self Portrait, 1941 ; Photo credit: all images are © Collection of the Yad Vashem Art Museum, Jerusalem