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article imageControversy as Swedish artist paints with Holocaust ashes

By Anne Sewell     Dec 7, 2012 in Entertainment
Lund - A controversy is raging as Swedish artist Carl Michael von Hausswolff unveils a painting made using ashes of Holocaust victims, taken from the Majdanek Nazi death camp in Poland.
The painting, entitled "Memory Works", is on display in the Lund Gallery in Sweden, and the artist, Carl Michael von Hausswolff, claims in a statement, quoted on the Lund gallery's website, that he collected "some ashes from cremation ovens" during a visit to the Majdanek Nazi death camp in Poland in 1989.
von Hausswolff said that he travelled to Poland in 1989 for an exhibit and while there visited the Majdanek concentration camp.
Monument at Majdanek Memorial  containing the ashes of human bodies found around the concentration c...
Monument at Majdanek Memorial, containing the ashes of human bodies found around the concentration camp.
Bruker:Kjetil r/Polen/Gallery
"I collected some ashes from one of the crematoriums but didn't use it for the exhibit - the material was too emotionally charged with the cruelties that had taken place there," he said.
He says that he kept the ashes for years, before he finally decided to mix them with water and create an artwork to remind viewers of the horrors of genocide, adding that the ashes were used to paint a series of grey strokes in the artwork.
"In 2010 I pulled out the jar of ashes and decided to 'do something' with it. I took out a few sheets of watercolor paper and decided to cover just a rectangular space with ashes mixed with water."
"When I stepped back and looked at the pictures, they 'spoke' to me: figures appeared... as if the ashes contained energy or memories or 'souls' from people... people tortured, tormented and murdered by other people in one of the most ruthless wars of the 20th century."
Majdanek Nazi death camp is a museum today, and officials believe that there is no way the artist could have taken the ashes legally. They are hoping that local officials can establish whether the remains of the genocide victims had been stolen, or defaced. Officials from the museum say that the artist's alleged theft is an "unimaginably barbaric act," and his artwork has been condemned as a result.
The Local website reports that one of the leaders of Sweden's Jewish community, Salomon Schulman had stated that the artwork was "repulsive in the extreme."
He wrote in an article in regional daily Sydsvenskan, "I'm never going to step foot inside this gallery to view this desecration of Jewish bodies. Who knows - maybe some of the ashes come from some of my relatives."
Martin Bryder, owner of the gallery in Lund that is displaying the artwork, told Sverige Radio that he “sees no moral problem or flaw with exhibiting” a painting.
According to the gallery's website, the exhibit can only be visited by appointment.
Swedish police have launched an investigation into the matter, after a member of the public filed a complaint with police on December 5th for “disturbing the peace of the dead” and labeled the work a “desecration of human remains.”
Majdanek Nazi death camp in Poland was discovered by Soviet forces in 1944. Around 80,000 people, most of them Jews, were murdered there.
What do you think. Has the artist taken artistic license a bit too far? Please comment below.
More about Carl Michael von Hausswolff, Holocaust, Ashes, Majdanek Nazi death camp, Poland
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