Art from Auschwitz Serves as a Warning in Dark Times

Art from Holocaust survivors reminds us why we cannot forget

In the wake of last week’s horrific violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, I, like most Americans, found myself asking, “How could this happen here?” Our country is not immune to domestic terrorism, certainly. From the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing to the 2015 murders of nine African Americans in a Charleston, South Carolina, church, we’ve seen more than our share of violence against our citizens perpetrated by our own countrymen. But this time was different. This time we saw hundreds of men armed with torches and clubs invade a U.S. city carrying a Nazi flag.

It’s been nearly 80 years since America sent millions of soldiers to Europe to stop the Nazi threat. About 300,000 of those men and millions upon millions of civilians died. Today, I have been asking myself how can we honor their sacrifice in the context of what happened this week. My answer is to share photos of art made by survivors of the Holocaust. I hope they will serve as a reminder to each of us that we cannot ever allow Nazi ideology to go unchallenged, here or anywhere else on earth.

Holocaust Art by Auschwitz survivor Edith Birkin

“Ghosts: A Camp Of Twins – Auschwitz,” by Edith Birkin, a survivor of Auschwitz who fled to Britain after the war
Credit: dailymail.com


Gassing by David Olere Holocaust Art

“Gassing” by David Olère. Olère was imprisoned at Auschwitz from March 2, 1943 to January 19, 1945. 
Credit: english.illinois.edu


Holocaust Art"Food of the Dead for the Living

“The Food of the Dead for the Living” by David Olère. While imprisoned at Auschwitz, Olère was responsible for removing the bodies of those executed in the gas chambers and crematoriums. Here he shows himself taking food left by those who died to throw over the fence to women prisoners on the other side.
Credit: english.illinois.edu


Holocaust art

“Unable to Work” by David Olère. In the Nazi concentration camps, being unable to work was a death sentence. Of the 1,000 prisoners who arrived at Auschwitz with David Olère, 881 were immediately put to death. Only a handful made it out of the camp alive
Credit: english.illinois.edu


Of course, these are only a few of the many, many paintings and drawings made by Holocaust survivors to document the horror and suffering wrought by the Nazi regime. Yet I hope they are sufficient to remind us that 80 years is not long ago at all. If it could happen then, it can happen now. We must remain vigilant, and fight hatred and bigotry with the most powerful weapons we have at our disposal — mutual respect, compassion and love.

Did you find this article interesting? If so, check out our articles about the U.S. Holocaust Museum and the Paper Clip Project Holocaust Memorial.

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