Unique collection of paintings for Auschwitz Museum
PR dla Zagranicy
The arts section of the Auschwitz Museum in southern Poland has been enriched with a set of 18 works by David Olere, a French Jew who was born in Warsaw in 1902.
Limestone relief of mother and her children at the threshold of the gas chamber, by David Olere (1902-1985). Photo: Dr. Avishai Teicher Pikiwiki Israel/Wikimedia Commons/Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic
Olere studied at Warsaw’s Fine Arts Academy. In 1943 he was deported to Auschwitz where he worked in the Sonderkommando, a group of prisoners forced by the Germans to operate the crematoria and gas chambers.
The director of the Auschwitz Museum, Piotr Cywiński, has told the Polish Press Agency that Olere was the only Sonderkommando prisoner who transferred his traumatic experiences onto paper and canvas.
“Hence the unique merit of these paintings, as testimony to the Holocaust coming from an eyewitness and presenting both the daily work of the Sonderkommando and the will to survive against all odds,” he said.
Until now the Auschwitz Museum had only one painting by Olere: the artist’s self-portrait donated three years ago by Serge Klarsfeld, vice president of the Shoah Foundation in France and a member of the International Auschwitz Council.
The self-portrait shows Olere being led by an armed guard to SS offices, with the crematoria and gas chambers in the background.
With the latest acquisitions, which were made possible thanks to support from the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, the Auschwitz Museum has the world’s largest collection of Olere’s paintings. A few of them remain in private hands and in the Yad Vashem Institute in Jerusalem.
Olere was evacuated from Auschwitz on 19 January 1945 and put in the Mauthausen sub-camps Melk and Ebensee. He was liberated from the latter on 6 May 1945. After the war, he developed a fine artistic career in Paris as a designer working for major film studios. He died in 1985. (mk/gs/pk)