Beauty and Brutality in Hidden Works
This week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel opened an exhibition at the German Historical Museum in Berlin of 100 works that were clandestinely created by 50 Holocaust-era artists. Of the group, half were killed by Adolf Hitler’s troops, but their creations survived.
The Holocaust memorial group Yad Vashem organized the exhibition, which runs through April 3. According to the New York Times, Merkel’s intent was to commemorate 50 years of German-Israeli relations. The anniversary comes as many global Jewish leaders are still questioning Germany’s ability to return art looted from Jewish homes or sold under duress during Hitler’s time in power.
In our Stumbling Stone novel, Karl Schmidt, the German-born California cop, and his lover Sarah Stern, a Jewish reporter born in the Bronx (who narrates the story), visit Germany and Karl’s parents in a quest to uncover the truth about what Karl’s father really did during World War II.
In this excerpt from Stumbling Stone, Karl’s father, called Der Alte, reacts to an art exhibit in a synagogue.
As we walked around the rebuilt synagogue with Der Alte, we noticed there was a display of art depicting Auschwitz. Karl led us to the room where the paintings were hanging, a mute memorial to the horrors. Images of emaciated, tortured souls stood at barbed-wire fences, staring, hopeless.
The old man motioned us over to one of the canvases. “Look here, this picture was painted in 1947. That one was painted in 1946. The war was over.” I realized the old man was implying the paintings did not reflect something the artists had seen, but maybe something they imagined or only heard.
“This one here,” Karl said, pointing at a canvas with bodies piled up. “Look here at this one. It was painted in 1941”. The old man said nothing more, looking silently at the paintings, reading the commentary about how much slave labor had been used in German factories. He had already told us about how the Krupp family had rebuilt their empire after the war and how the Krupp son had served his father’s prison sentence for war crimes because the older man had been too ill to go to jail.
Read more about the artists who managed to smuggle art supplies and create clandestine art works, not all of them depicting the Holocaust horrors.