I was walking through college about a week before Holocaust Memorial Day, which is on the 27th January every year (it marks the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp), and I spotted some images of the Holocaust. As I walked through the corridor and looked in the display cases which were filled with photocopying's of newspaper cuttings about the Holocaust and various survivors, photocopies of perpetrators and also images of the victims inside the concentration camps. This book,
Art of the Holocaust
by Janet Blatter and Sybil Milton
was in one of the cabinets. After asking to borrow it for this project a few weeks later, I looked through and it's basically the most extensive collection of sketches by Survivors, POW's, various Camp inmates, people who were in hiding etc. that I have seen while I have been researching this project. I took some photocopies of many of the images in this book because they really had an effect on me.
Each individual picture is different yet they all seem to be telling the same story, the same suffering, the same hunger and sadness and the same desperation to be freed from the Nazi grip.
While I was looking through the book, I came across this image:
"The Liquidation of Dr. Korczak's Orphanage."
Pencil on yellowed paper
(Warsaw, 1941 - 43.)
This image, tells the true story of Dr. Janusz Korczak, a Polish Jew, who ran the orphanage in the Warsaw Ghetto. When the ghetto was liquidated, he was given the option to stay behind and work in the hospitals but he refused and followed his orphans into the Gas Chambers at Treblinka Death Camp.
So, here is where the answer to my argument really begins. This image is telling the story of these orphans who were sent to their death. But it is also documenting the heroic act of Dr... who refused to let the children die alone.
However, I was already aware of this story. After my visit to Auschwitz in 2010, I got involved in the preparations for Plymouth's Holocaust Memorial Day on January 27th 2011. During this time, I met a man who works with the Plymouth Muti-Faith and Cultural Diversity Centre who told me the story of this Dr...
So this leads to another question...Does knowing the story behind an images like this one, make the experience of it any stronger?
Does the fact that this document (the image of this event) is explained more clearly and therefore we can understand it more?
My point is that the story was very moving when I first heard it, maybe it was reinforced by my visit and own experience of Auschwitz during which I stood in the place where this man and the said children were murdered. But would someone who didn't know this story before hand react differently to the image once they were told?
Maybe this is something that I need to experiment?