MEMORIAL AND MUSEUM

AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU

FORMER GERMAN NAZI
CONCENTRATION AND EXTERMINATION CAMP

News

“For the price of survival I made a pact”. Exhibition of works by former Auschwitz prisoner Walter Spitzer.

ps
19-10-2015

Drawings by Walter Spitzer, a former prisoner of German Nazi concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz are presented on a new temporary exhibition entitled “For the price of survival I made a pact”.

The Museum Collection included so far 9 graphics by Spitzer from the year 1960, in which he presented the nightmare of camp life in a very evocative manner. This year, next 5 drawings were included in the Museum Collections. 

 

'The works include among others sketches presenting portrait study of a Muselmann – prisoner in the state of exhaustion by starvation and labour, study of a woman in the gas chamber – sketch for the oil painting entitled “Gas chamber”, as well as large-dimension drawing constituting at the same time a draft on the basis of which the sculpture entitled “Muselmann” was created in honour of the memory of 10 thousand Jews murdered in Buchenwald', said Agnieszka Sieradzka from the Museum Collections.

The exhibition presents all drawings by Walter Spitzer included in the Museum Collections as well as several works made available by the artist especially for this occasion from his own collection. On October 15th, he was the guest of a special educational session organized by the International Center for Education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust on the occasion of the inauguration of the exhibition.

Walter Spitzer, painter, graphic artist and sculptor was born on June 14, 1927 in Cieszyn in a Jewish family. In 1940, sharing the fate of other Jews from Cieszyn, he was transported together with his mother to the ghetto in Strzemieszyce. In 1943, after the liquidation of the ghetto, some of its residents were transported by the Germans to the Auschwitz camp. Walter Spitzer was directed to the Blechhammer sub-camp. In order to survive tragic camp conditions, he was drawing portraits and landscapes, exchanging them for food.

'When I was drawing in the camp I was not aware of the fact that it could be called art. I was drawing portraits in order to get a piece of bread, some margarine. I just wanted to survive', said Walter Spitzer.

In 1945 he was evacuated to the Gross-Rosen camp, then to Buchenwald. It was in Buchenwald where the members of the resistance movement, having noticed his artistic talent, decided to help him to survive in the camp. But he had to promise, if he survived, to tell with his pencil all he had seen there.

'For the price of survival I made a pact. I had to engrave in my memory the everyday horror and draw, and draw, to tear these images from time, in order to, one day, remind the world about what had happened here. I was only 17 and I was burdened with responsibility which was too heavy for me to cope with. Camp memories for sure had the influence on me and on my art. They remained in me', he recalled.

After World War II, Walter Spitzer completed the studies at the National School of Fine Arts in Paris. He is a recognized artist with important artistic achievements. An important part of his artistic activity is devoted to Holocaust memories.

The exhibition “For the price of survival I made a pact” can be seen in temporary exhibition hall in Block 12 of the former Auschwitz I camp until November 15th at 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. (October) and 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. (November)