A new exhibition at the National Museum in Krakow has put an extensive collection of artwork from Auschwitz death camp prisoners on display for the very first time. "Face to Face: Art in Auschwitz" features around 200 artworks, some of which have never before been seen by public eyes, marking the 70th anniversary of the Auschwitz Museum.
The sketchbook drawings, watercolor paintings and more reveal the brutal reality of camp life. Some of the pieces were commissioned by Nazi officers, depicting labor, or portraits of those who were experimented on. However other works were created in secret, with prisoners using materials they were able to take from around the death camp and keep hidden.
"Art could have been a distraction from camp reality. It could have been a rescue for the prisoner's endangered psyche. At the exhibition we also have works portraying families of people imprisoned in Auschwitz, fiancés, mothers, children, works expressing dreams and longings," exhibition curator Agnieszka Sieradzka told Reuters TV.
Also being displayed is the original "Arbeit Macht Frei" gate top that was stolen and retrieved in 2009.
More than a million people, mainly European Jews, were gassed, shot or hanged at the camp, or died of neglect, starvation or disease, before the Soviet Red Army entered its gates in early 1945 during its decisive advance on Germany.