Shalom Life | April 21, 2014

“Hitler” Re-emerges on the Site of The Warsaw Ghetto

New Art Exhibit Angers Poland’s Jewish and Catholic Organizations

By: David Shear

Published: December 27th, 2012 in Culture » Art » News

“Hitler” Re-emerges on the Site of The Warsaw Ghetto
The age-old question of “but, is it art?” has emerged in the streets of Poland thanks to a controversial new statue.

“Amen,” a new art exhibition located, of all places, on the site that was once home to Warsaw’s Jewish Ghetto, is causing serious consternation among Poland’s Jewish and Catholic organizations, both of which have called the work extremely offensive.

The exhibit that’s stirring up all the controversy is a sculpture of a kneeling Adolf Hitler currently displayed outside of 14 Prozna Street which, 70 years ago, was at the centre of the largest Jewish Ghetto in Nazi-controlled Europe during World War II. From there, at least 254,000 Ghetto residents were sent to the Treblinka extermination camp over the course of two months in the summer of 1942.,

The statue is the work of Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, 52, who is no stranger to controversy. In fact one of his earlier works called “La Nona Ora” (“The Ninth Hour”) shows Pope John Paul II being hit by a meteorite.

Cattlena’s show at Warsaw’s Centre for Contemporary Art includes a number of exhibits inside a Warsaw museum, while his “kneeling Hitler” is the only one placed outside on Prozna Street.

Fearing reprisals, the museum’s management has mounted 24-hour security around the Hitler statue.

“Cattelan is a provocateur, to some extent, but it is definitely not a blasphemer,” said art historian Maria Poprzecka. “He is one of a few artists who have won fame not because of their artistic activity, but because of scandal caused by politicians.”

If the success of Cattlena’s titillating sculpture is based on public interest, it seems that the kneeling Hitler is winner with hundreds of spectators peering through the gate to gaze at the statue day after day.

“We want to believe that the statue is intended to show Hitler repenting or apologizing for his evil actions,” said an 81-year-old woman who came to see the statue after reading about it in a local newspaper..

“Why did the artists decide to put a praying child here? Is he praying for those who lived here? It must be a Christian, because Jews do not pray on their knees.”

When she heard that the “child” was in fact Hitler, she said angrily: “Hitler did not have the right to ask for forgiveness.”

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