According to The Telegraph, Swedish artist Michael von Hausswolff “has been accused of desecrating the bodies of Jewish Holocaust victims” by using the ashes from a concentration camp crematorium in Majdanek, in a painting which is now on exhibit at a gallery in Lund, Sweden.
It is understandable that survivors and relatives of victims would be offended by such an exhibit. In response to the work of art, which consists of gray streaks, produced by mixing the ashes with water, Salomon Schulman calls the painting “revolting.” Schulman, who is very vocal in Sweden’s Jewish community, lost many relatives during the Holocaust. He wrote to a local newspaper saying, “Maybe some of the ashes originated from my relatives. No one knows where they were deported: all my mother’s siblings and their children, and my grandparents.” He went on to say, “I will never go to this gallery and view the desecration of Jewish bodies,” adding, “I am sickened by his work and obsession with necrophilia.”
Hausswolff was quoted as saying the ashes seemed to “contain the memories and the souls of people: people tormented and murdered by other people in the most vicious war of the 20th Century.” The artist admitted to stealing the ashes when he visited Majdanek in 1989, saying some came from cremation ovens, as reported by BBC News.
The owner of the gallery stands by the decision to display the art, despite the controversy. He has even gone so far as to say that if Mr. Schulman saw the painting, his opinion of it might change.
Artists are often very passionate about their work and determined to share it with the world, no matter how controversial it might be. Sometimes this is a good thing. However, when a tragedy like the Holocaust is involved, the artist should be mindful of those who could be hurt by such a display.