Forbidden Art. To capture unimaginable. The exhibit prolonged till 20 November.


Forbidden Art is the title of a new exhibition at the Auschwitz Memorial, featuring twenty works of art made illegally and under the threat of death by prisoners in German Nazi concentration camps. Each of the photographs shown in the exhibition is accompanied by a historical commentary and excerpts from archival accounts. The time when the exhibition at the Museum is available for viewing was prolonged until 20 November. Afterwards, it will be shown to audiences in other countries, including the United States.

„How to capture and express the unimaginable? How to represent the entire hell of Auschwitz with the help of minimal representational means in an atmosphere of unending terror? How to portray fear, helplessness, and despair, but also the longing for freedom? How to avoid forfeiting humanity and the remnants of dignity in the inhuman world of Auschwitz? The works in this exhibition, the artists’ attempt to cope with the camp experience, hint to a degree at answers to these questions.” – we read in the folder accompanying the exhibition.

“The works that we show at the exhibition in photographic form are quite diverse in terms of subject matter, the material used, and technique. The most important thing, however, is that there is a moving story behind each of these works. This makes our exhibition not only an encounter with art but also an important lesson in history,” said Agnieszka Sieradzka, an art historian from the Museum Collections Department.

The exhibition is divided in two parts. The first part shows the reality of the camp—various scenes from the functioning of the camp as well as portraits of prisoners. The second part offers a look at various kinds of escape from camp reality: caricatures, albums containing greetings, and fairy tales that prisoners wrote for their children.

Most of the photographs at the exhibition show works of graphic art, but there are also such items as a bracelet with scenes from the Łódź ghetto found near the gas chamber on the Auschwitz II-Birkenau grounds, or a miniature figure of a devil made in Auschwitz from tape and a piece of wire; it was used for smuggling illegal correspondence by prisoners.

The “Forbidden Art” exhibition can be seen on the grounds of the former Auschwitz I camp in the camp laundry building until the end of October 2011. The photographs were taken by Michał Dziewulski. It will be accompanied by a two-day scholarly conference in which specialists from museums and memorial sites in Israel, Germany, Poland, and the United States will talk about the subject of art made in the ghettos and concentration camps.

The exhibition will soon be available for viewing by audiences in several cities in the United States.

See the video

Artists whose work is shown in the exhibition

  • Peter Edel
  • Maria Hiszpańska
  • Franciszek Jaźwiecki
  • Mieczysław Kościelniak
  • Halina Ołomucka
  • Stanisława Panasowa-Stelmaszewska
  • Marian Ruzamski
  • Josef Sapcaru
  • Włodzimierz Siwierski
  • Zofia Stępień
  • Józef Szajna
  • Stanisław Trałka
  • The anonymous artist with the initials MM
  • Anonymous artists
The “Forbidden Art” exhibition can be seen on the grounds of the former Auschwitz I camp in the camp laundry building
The “Forbidden Art”...
The exhibit poster
The exhibit poster
The drawing comes from a sketchbook found in 1947 on the ground of Auschwitz II- Birkenau camp (sector BIIf ).
The drawing comes...
A bracelet with scenes from the Lizmannstadt Ghetto was found near the crematory III on the grounds of the Auschwitz II
A bracelet with...
Halina Ołomucka drew wherever she had managed to acquire a piece of paper. And the art did save her life.
Halina Ołomucka...