The Parliament of Bodies: Art and the Buchenwald Concentration Camp–Art as a Means of Survival and Resistance
with Ulrich Schneider

AUG
28
Talk and discussion
8–10 pm
Fridericianum, Friedrichsplatz 18, Kassel
Live stream available

Boris Taslitzky, Conversation, Buchenwald concentration camp, 1945, pencil on paper

The lecture and discussion will focus on two phenomena: The first is the exploitation of the creative and artistic skills of prisoners by members of the SS, who had carvings and other works of art produced by prisoners in the wood and art workshop. Familiar objects include the carved guideposts on Carachoweg (Caracho Way) and the figures pointing to SS installations and the concentration camp. Members of the SS also had prisoners make everyday items (cigar boxes, desk sets) and decorative objects (cogs). But the prisoners also produced wood carvings for themselves. These include various chess sets and the Das letzte Gesicht (The Last Face), the famous sculpture by Bruno Apitz.

The second mode of expression comprised drawings and prints, with which the artists sought to describe the reality of life in the concentration camp. They also realized numerous portraits as personal memorials to prisoners who were later murdered or died as a result of the living conditions at the camp, thus ensuring that they were not forgotten. Among the best-known names are those of Herbert Sandberg, a political prisoner, Henri Pieck from the Netherlands, Paul Goyard and Boris Taslitzky from France, Polish prisoners Karol Konieczny and Zdenek Adla, as well as many others whose drawings and pictures have survived. Using the simplest technical resources, they sketched their impressions in pencil, charcoal, or red chalk (rarely in ink or watercolor), often on the backs of used sheets of paper.

Visual art in its various forms helped prisoners survive during their time at the camp and served as a medium through which to express the will to resist.

After the prisoners were liberated, visual art became a vehicle for the visualization of the unspeakable and enabled survivors to process the images in their minds. The artistic creations presentation included works by Jósef Szajna (Poland), Boris Lurie, who actually became a member of an artists’ group in New York, and Fischel Libermann, who lived in Frankfurt.

The extent to which artistic processing also influenced the culture of recollection is evident, for example, in the group of figures realized by Fritz Cremer in front of the bell tower in the memorial and in the memorial plaque by Horst Hoheisel and Andreas Knitz on the parade ground. Such works also raise the question of how and in what form visual art can make a practically incomprehensible reality accessible to later generations.


For many years, Ulrich Schneider taught at the University of Kassel and is currently teaching German and History in Bebra. His fields of expertise are German studies, history, and political science. Schneider is active as a publicist and lecturer, and he is also the national spokesman for the Association of Persecutees of the Nazi Regime–Federation of Antifascists (VVN-BdA), as well as Secretary General of the International Federation of Resistance Fighters (FIR). He is the author of various publications, whose topics including antifascist resistance, regional history, and neo-fascism today.

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