Poland to investigate Swedish artist's claim of Holocaust ashes

Posted Jan 9, 2013 by Anne Sewell
Recently Swedish artist Carl Michael von Hausswolff claimed that he had created artwork using human ashes from the Majdanek Nazi death camp in Poland. Now Poland is investigating the claim and the artist may face a prison sentence.
Carl Michael von Hausswolff
Carl Michael von Hausswolff
User R▲▲S on Flickr
Digital Journal reported on the controversial news about the painting, entitled "Memory Works", which was on display in the Lund Gallery in Sweden. The work has, however, since been removed from the gallery due to outrage and protests that it was a "desecration" and "abomination."
Following the announcement of the painting, Polish prosecutors started a legal action against the artist. And now they have launched an investigation into von Hausswolff's claim that he used the ashes of Holocaust victims to create the painting. If they find that this is, in fact, the case, his actions may land the artist in prison for several years.
Von Hausswolff claims that he obtained the ashes during a visit to the former Nazi death camp in 1989. He wrote that he waited a long time before actually using the ash, in his small painting entitled “Memory Works”.
According to the artist, the black and white painting, which features vertical brushstrokes in a rectangle, represents the suffering of the victims, "people tortured, tormented and murdered by other people in one of the most ruthless wars of the 20th century."
Majdanek Nazi death camp has since become a memorial museum complex. The camp was one of the most horrifying Nazi death camps, holding around 150,000 people between 1941 and 1944. Around 80,000 people, most of them Jews, were executed in the camp's gas chambers or died through malnutrition or exhaustion.
Crematorium of the Majdanek Concentration Camp
Crematorium of the Majdanek Concentration Camp
Apparently it will be difficult to prove whether the artist if actually telling the truth, but in 1989 there were still reportedly ashes in the camp's crematorium area. However, removing this ash would be a crime and according to a spokeswoman for the now-museum, there was no security at the site to register the act.
The spokeswoman, Beata Syk-Jankowska said on Tuesday that prosecutors in the eastern city of Lublin want to find out whether the artist is telling the truth or is just trying to gain publicity. Should it be proved that Holocaust victims' ashes were used in the painting, it will most likely cause outrage among Holocaust survivors and those who are preserving the memory of the Nazi death camps victims, thousands of which are Poles.
According to Polish law, should von Hausswolff's claim be proved, he may face charges of desecrating human ashes and their resting place and could, quite possibly, face up to eight years in prison.