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Yad Vashem Tolkatchev Exhibit to Open in Austria

16 October 2005

A traveling Yad Vashem exhibit entitled “The Soldier Tolkatchev on the Gates to Hell,” will open October 19, in the Parliament building of Linz, Austria. The exhibit, under the patronage of Austrian President Dr. Heinz Fischer, runs until November 7. The exhibit is comprised of photos from the Auschwitz Album, and sketches by Zinovii Tolkatchev, drawn at the time of the liberation of the Majdanek and Auschwitz camps, and is accompanied by texts in English and German.

The exhibit is a smaller version of an exhibit that appeared at the United Nations in New York during the special session marking the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz in January. It has already been displayed in the Council of Europe in Strasburg and the UN’s Geneva Headquarters, as well as in Bad Homburg, Kronberg, and Hanau, Germany. It will be next on display in Munich, followed by Liechtenstein. The opening ceremony will take place on October 19, 2005 at 19:30, at the Cultural Center of Linz. The event will be attended by Israeli Ambassador to Austria H.E. Dan Ashbel, Chairman of the Austrian Friends of Yad Vashem, Guenther Schuster and local officials.

Background on exhibit

The Auschwitz Album is unique. Using more than 200 photos, it documents the arrival and processing of an entire transport of Jews from Carpatho-Ruthenia (a region annexed in 1939 to Hungary from Czechoslovakia) at Auschwitz-Birkenau in May 1944. These rare photos provide both moving and painful documentation of the entire process-arrival, selektion, confiscation of property and preparation for the murder-except for the gassing itself. Astonishingly, the album was found by one of the few survivors from that very same transport, Lili Jacob. When Lili opened the album, to her astonishment she recognized members of her community who had been sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau, including her rabbi, many relatives-and herself. In August 1980, Lili Jacob donated the original album to Yad Vashem. The Album is now on display at the new Holocaust History Museum at Yad Vashem.

Private Zinovii Tolkatchev was appointed professor at the Institute of Fine Arts in Kiev prior to World War II. In July 1944, as the official artist for the Red Army, Tolkatchev joined the Soviet forces at Majdanek shortly after the camp was liberated. Soon afterwards he joined the troops that arrived at Auschwitz in January 1945. Confronted by the difficult images he saw upon entering camps, Tolkatchev immediately sketched what he saw on the paper of the Commandant of Auschwitz. These sketches provide eyewitness accounts of what Auschwitz looked like on liberation day. Immediately after the war, Tolkatchev’s drawings were published as albums and exhibited extensively throughout Poland, receiving wide public acclaim. The Auschwitz Series was donated to Yad Vashem in February 2002 by his two children Anel Tolkatcheva and Ilya Tolkatchev (Kiev).