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Face to Face. Art in Auschwitz. Exhibition at the National Museum in Cracow.


"Face to Face. Art in Auschwitz”, is the title of a unique exhibition that will be opened on 6 July 2017 in the Szołayski Tenement house, a branch of the National Museum in Cracow. The exhibition prepared on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the Museum on the site of the former German Nazi concentration and extermination camp will be the first of such comprehensive presentation of original works made in the camp by Auschwitz prisoners. The Minister of Culture and National Heritage, Prof. Piotr Gliński has assumed honorary patronage over the exhibition.


Author unknown, The Sketchbook from Auschwitz, KL Auschwitz 1943
Author unknown, The...
Mieczysław Kościelniak, Return from work, KL Auschwitz 1942
Xawery Dunikowski, Portrait of Marian Ruzamski, KL Auschwitz 1943-44
Xawery Dunikowski,...
Władysław Siwek, Construction of Erweiterung, KL Auschwitz 1943
Władysław Siwek,...

Art created in the horrible reality of Auschwitz is a unique document of the camp’s world, and a testament to the artists’ struggles for their own humanity. Behind the gates of the German Nazi Auschwitz camp, many representatives of the Polish intelligentsia, perceived by the German authorities as especially dangerous were imprisoned, because of fear they may become involved  among others, in activities of the resistance movement, or provide spiritual and moral support in the harsh realities of the occupation. Among them was a large group of professional visual artists.

At a later period, artists from other nationalities were also sent to KL Auschwitz, mostly Jews. The latter had much less possibility for artistic expression, because the camp authorities treated Jewish prisoners most ruthlessly. Nonetheless, some of them also created in the camp.

'Created in 1947, the Auschwitz Museum has a unique collection of works created by camp prisoners. The exposition prepared in collaboration with the National Museum in Cracow will present almost 200 works. The exhibition will comprise mostly of works created illegally, depicting the camp’s reality. The exhibition will also present portraits of prisoners and drawings expressing their longing and desire,' said the exhibition curator Agnieszka Sieradzka, art historian working at the Auschwitz Museum’s Collection.

Due to the camp realities, these works were created in a condition of constant threat to life and all materials readily available to the prisoners. They therefore constitute a unique cross-section of virtually all painting techniques: pencil, ink, crayon on paper, oil on hardboard or canvas from tablecloth, pastel on wrapping paper, watercolour on cardboard and many more.

Works created on the official orders of the SS camp authorities will be presented in a separate area, including: examples of propaganda art, instructional drawings, models and paintings showing the expansion plans of the camp, art works documenting the progression of diseases and medical experiments, as well as works created by the prisoners for private use of the SS.

The exhibition will also present the original inscription “Arbeit macht frei” from above the entrance gate of the Auschwitz I camp - a unique example of "handicraft" by prisoners of the locksmith work unit, and one of the most important symbols of the cruel cynicism of the concentration camp world.

The exhibition will be on display until 20 September 2017 .

Exhibition preview: June 6, 2017 at 6 PM
Press conference: June 6, 2017 at 12 PM

Curator: Agnieszka Sieradzka, Auschwitz Museum
Co-curator: Michał Dziewulski, National Museum in Cracow
Coordinator: Alicja Wójcik, Auschwitz Museum and Katarzyna Maniak, National Museum in Cracow
Arrangement: Magdalena Bujak, National Museum in Cracow