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New Exhibit, “Forbidden Art,” Displays Rare Concentration Camp Artwork

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20 Different Pieces on Display at The Polish Museum of America


Forbidden Art, a temporary exhibit opening Sunday at The Polish Museum of America, will showcase photos of 20 rare pieces of art – created despite great personal danger – by prisoners of German Nazi concentration camps during World War II. The pieces, made illegally during the prisoners’ captivity, document the reality of the concentration camps and how creating art was an important escape and respite from the horrors of imprisonment.

Maria Ciesla, President of The Polish Museum of America, said: “We are honored to present this exhibit. Forbidden Art will remind visitors of the German Nazi atrocities, while showcasing the resolute and inspiring prisoners behind these solemn, yet remarkable and fascinating pieces of history.”

The first part of the exhibit displays scenes from daily life in the camps and portraits of the prisoners. The exhibit offers a window into how prisoners mentally escaped from the reality of the concentration camps, by creating drawings, albums containing greetings and fairy tales written for their children with whom they longed to reunite.

In addition to the photographed prints shown in the exhibit (the original objects are permanently housed at The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum), photos of a bracelet with scenes from the Lodz Ghetto found near the Auschwitz crematory, a 12 cm long sarcophagus and sculptures are highlighted. Each of the exhibit pieces is set alongside historical commentary and excerpts from archival accounts.

Jan Krawiec, an Auschwitz survivor and a member of The Polish Museum of America, said: “It is remarkable that prisoners were able to create art despite those terrible conditions. It’s important to continue to talk about what happened at the concentration camps during World War II to make sure history is never repeated again.”

For this exhibit, The Polish Museum of America will also display select items from its collections, representing the resilience of those affected by the atrocities of World War II. Highlights include the vestments made by Rev. Henryk Malak who was imprisoned at the Dachau concentration camp, as well as private papers and mementos from other concentration camp survivors.

Forbidden Art is included with the price of Museum admission – Adults – $10.00; Seniors (over 62 years) & Students (over 9 years) – $9.00; Members – $8.00. It runs from Oct. 19 through Jan. 11, 2015 and was brought to The Polish Museum of America thanks to the exclusive partnership of The Polish Mission of the Orchard Lake Schools, located in Orchard Lake, Michigan, and The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum of Poland.

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The Polish Museum of America is one of the oldest and largest ethnic museums in the United States and offers visitors a range of exhibits, resources and activities related to Polish history, culture and heritage, as well as Polish-American history.  Its all-inclusive exhibits and cultural events are both educational and entertaining while supporting the entire community.  Its Library and extensive Archives have rendered invaluable services to historians, researchers, students and genealogists.