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Police Drop Probe of Artist Using Holocaust Victims' Ashes

Swedish police said they dropped an investigation into an artist who used paint mixed from ashes of Holocaust victims in a watercolor.
By Rachel Hirshfeld
First Publish: 12/12/2012, 1:45 AM

Holocaust memorial
Holocaust memorial
Flash 90

Swedish police said Tuesday they have dropped an investigation into an artist who used paint mixed from the ashes of Holocaust victims in a watercolor.

"The enquiry was closed on Monday,” police commissioner Stefan Soederholm told AFP, citing lack of evidence.

Swedish painter Carl Michael von Hausswolff, whose contentious work is on display in the town of Lund, said he visited the Majdanek concentration camp during a trip to Poland in 1989 and accumulated ashes of Jewish victims to use for his “art.”

The black-and-white work features vertical brushstrokes in a rectangle representing the suffering of the victims.

The manager of the gallery, Martin Bryder, decided to pull the exhibition after the Jewish community in the area, and US-based Jewish rights group the Simon Wiesenthal Center, denounced the artwork, calling it an “abomination” that “Hitler, as an aspirant painter, would have surely applauded.”

"Christmas is supposed to be a time of peace and harmony. So I decided to close the exhibition," Bryder told daily newspaper Sydsvenskan.

In an open letter, Shimon Samuels, Director for International Relations of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, wrote to the artist saying, “Perhaps you are unaware that your paintbrush has violated a core value, of monotheistic religious faiths inherited from its Jewish sources: respect for the sanctity of human life and for its vessel, its mortal body fashioned in the image of its Creator.”

A private citizen had filed a police complaint against Von Hausswolff on December 5 for "disturbing the peace of the dead", a crime in Sweden punishable by up to two years in prison.

No information is currently available on whether an inquiry would be launched in Poland.

On Thursday, a spokeswoman for the Majdanek camp museum, Agnieszka Kowalczyk, told Swedish daily Aftonbladet that collecting the ashes amounted to theft, and that the museum would ensure "the judicial authorities find out how this actually happened."