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Exhibition "Art from the Holocaust" to Open in Berlin

100 Works from the Yad Vashem Collection

21 December 2015

January 26 to April 3, 2016

For the first time in Germany, the German Historical Museum is exhibiting 100 works of art from Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem. The exhibition, which was initiated by the German national daily BILD and is being held in collaboration with the Bonn-based Foundation for Art and Culture, represents the culmination of events marking 50 years since the establishment of German-Israeli diplomatic relations. This is "hitherto the largest presentation of artworks from the Yad Vashem collection outside Israel, and should be cherished as an invaluable symbol of friendship," said President of the German Historical Museum, Alexander Koch.

"Art from the Holocaust" will be inaugurated by the German Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel on January 25, 2016 in the German Historical Museum, in the presence of Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev. It will be on display until April 3, 2016.

The 100 works originate from the Jewish inmates of various concentration camps, labor camps and ghettos. "In these works that survived the Holocaust, we discern the power of art in revealing the personal perspectives of the Jewish victims," explains Avner Shalev. "This exhibition allows for a rare encounter, specifically in Berlin, between contemporary spectators and those that lived through the events of the Shoah. Each work of art from our unique collection constitutes a living testimony from the Holocaust, as well as a declaration of the indomitable human spirit that refuses to surrender."

Created under inhumane conditions in the utmost secrecy, the largely graphical works attest to the power of the human spirit in the face of adversity and death, and to the conflict between the reality of the Holocaust and an imaginary counter-world. “In an uncompromising act of resistance, the artists drew and painted in mortal danger," says the exhibition's curator and Director of Yad Vashem's Art Department, Eliad Moreh-Rosenberg. "Some vividly portray the atrocities and humiliations they had to endure, while others seek to counter the relentless dehumanisation by highlighting the individual and his or her inner spiritual life." Together with Walter Smerling, who is curating the exhibition on behalf of the Foundation for Art and Culture, Moreh-Rosenberg selected the works from Yad Vashem's unrivalled Art Collection. “Art is a powerful response to oppression and terror,” emphasizes Smerling. “This exhibition is an urgent reminder of the need to respect the dignity of man – for it is the inviolable core of his being."

"The aspiration to show these deeply moving art works for the first time on this scale in Germany traces back to my first visit to Yad Vashem,” recalls BILD Editor-in-Chief Kai Diekmann, who initiated the exhibition. "In honor of the legacy of Axel Springer, who both campaigned for and promoted moves towards a reconciliation between Jews and Germans, I hope that art can help to rebuild the bridges once destroyed."

From the 50 artists featured, 24 were murdered by the National Socialists. Alongside the largely unknown names, acclaimed artists such as Felix Nussbaum and Ludwig Meidner are also represented. The works are classified into themes and range from depictions of the daily atrocities in the camps to the evocation of an idyllic counter-reality. The biographies of the artists also form part of the exhibition.

The exhibition is a collaboration between the Bonn-based Foundation for Art and Culture, the German Historical Museum and Yad Vashem – the World Center for Holocaust Remembrance in Jerusalem. The project was initiated by the BILD media partner and the Foundation for Art and Culture.

The exhibition is made possible by the sponsorship of the Daimler AG and the Deutsche Bank AG. The catalogue accompanying the exhibition is published by the Wienand Verlag, Cologne.