An Inkling of the Horror
March 5, 2010 5:11 PM   Subscribe

Auschwitz: Then and Now. From In 1979, The Auschwitz Museum Archive reproduced selected pieces of art and sent them to writer/photographer Alan Jacobs. After years of related work and many more trips, Jacobs, and his son Jesse, returned to the camps in 1996 to find and photograph the identical scenes depicted in the art.

Krysia Jacobs then devised a way to present them as you see here. They are the result of work over a 24 year period.

This exhibit contrasts contemporary photographs of these two camps, with images of what they were like 1940-45 as remembered by artist-survivors. Much of the art was created soon after their liberation. Their art is the only visual record of day-to-day existence in Auschwitz/Birkenau.
posted by bwg (12 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Previously on MetaFilter.
posted by bwg at 5:22 PM on March 5, 2010

This is very powerful.
posted by HuronBob at 6:12 PM on March 5, 2010

Very moving; thank you for sharing this. It would be an appropriate addition to the holocaust museum in DC.
posted by TedW at 6:25 PM on March 5, 2010

Whoa. I've been to Auschwitz in the last few years and this. . . really provides perspective. See, when you visit the camp it's empty of people. The contemporary photographs are very accurate in that regard. Some of the buildings have exhibits in them: information about the victims, piles of confiscated items, historical background, etc. but all the people you see are other visitors.

The effect of the paintings beside the photographs like that is. . . "revealing" doesn't quite cover it. "Powerful" seems too vague. "Humanizing" fails to convey.
posted by Ndwright at 7:20 PM on March 5, 2010

Wow, that is an amazing exhibition, and awful.
posted by torticat at 7:21 PM on March 5, 2010

I, too, recently visited Auschwitz. This exhibit not only brings back to mind the myriad feelings I had when I was there, but brings it that much more closer via the art. I spent two weeks in eastern Europe, on "vacation" and learnt a lot about the jewish population of WWII.

Walking through Auschwitz I & II I was struck by how small everything seemed. In history's mind it had seemed to be built into this horrible machine the likes that we had never seen and will never see again.

But the reality was, these were plain brick buildings (Auschwitz I) which surprised all my family and friends with how "nice" they were upon seeing my pictures. These were gravel paths and log 'cabins'. It didn't look so bad.

Until you know that there were 1000 people in those 'cabins'. Until you've seen the crawl space into the standing cells in Block 11. Until you've seen the hospital where experiments took place.

Until you've seen the infamous gate -- it looks so. . . unimposing, yet dire. And although you can feel the feet of the many that passed through that gate, and the many that stood for 'selection' at Auschwitz II, I can say that they don't seem to linger on the rest of the grounds.

I did not feel them there beyond those entrance moments. They did not stay. And I am glad of that.

I'm sorry, I know it seems dramatic, but the few hours I spent at Auschwitz I will never forget, and I will always try to share what I felt there.
posted by aclevername at 8:42 PM on March 5, 2010

God, that's powerful. It's almost too much to look at.
posted by jokeefe at 10:59 PM on March 5, 2010

This is indeed very powerful, particularly in the juxtaposition - it's difficult, sometimes, to remember that there were blue skies and sunshine over Auschwitz.
posted by punchdrunkhistory at 1:34 AM on March 6, 2010

And all of that just a little over 65 years ago.

Not even seven decades, just a few generations.

That hurts my heart to think about.
posted by bwg at 5:53 AM on March 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

I used this website a few weeks ago to show my students; they found this one most powerful.

There is also this amazing website.
posted by lilac girl at 8:10 AM on March 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

This is indeed incredibly moving. I've visited Dachau and aclevername, your comments ring true and I can identify with them.
posted by madamjujujive at 9:12 AM on March 6, 2010

I have not been to Auschwitz, but after reading aclevername's comment, I went to the site and looked at the virtual tours of the camp, and I think I understand what s/he was saying... in my mind, I realize, Auschwitz was this monumental manifestation of hell, with continual snow and ice and freezing rain. But the tours show a rather banal series of buildings. The famous gate is actually smallish; the train tracks are just.... train tracks. The ramp where the "selections" took place is just a siding. It's not huge. It's not monumental. Even the gas chambers don't look that imposing. Block 11 looks a bit like a school I attended when I was a small child. And that's the important thing: the evil was not in the buildings themselves, but in what was done there. Switching back and forth between the pictures of the present-- taking during what looks like pleasant summer days-- and the few existing photographs of the arrival of a transport of Hungarian Jews (and was my friend E.'s father and mother among them?), where you can line up the landmarks (the gate, the tracks, the trees in the wood) is like staring into the reality that hell is human actions and deeds, not a place.

And you know what was somehow awful as well? The trees. That big birch tree by the entrance? It's 60 years older, but it's the same goddamn tree. The exact same one. Why this hurts I can't say, but there it is.
posted by jokeefe at 3:19 PM on March 6, 2010

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