Estonian museum apologizes for exhibit making light of Holocaust

Controversial installations featured nude men and women playing tag in a gas chamber and man pointing to a sign proclaiming Holocaust in the style of the Hollywood sign.

Tartu, Estonia. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Tartu, Estonia.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
An Estonian museum has apologized for exhibiting works which critics have accused of making light of the Holocaust, following a public outcry by the local Jewish community. It removed two pieces that have drawn particular ire.
One of the video installations at the Tartu Art Museum featured nude men and women playing tag in a gas chamber, while the second showed a “Holocaust survivor” having his concentration camp tattoo re-inked. They were both part of an exhibit entitled “My Poland: On Recalling and Forgetting,” that curators explained was intended to spark discussion of the reality of the Holocaust in order to “acknowledge the minorities in our society and to address growing extremism and xenophobia.”
Another work showed a group of smiling men, women, and children, some bundled up in thick blankets, standing together behind a barbed wire fence wearing concentration camp uniforms. A third showed a man and a woman driving in a car, the man pointing through the windshield to the word Holocaust on a mountainside in huge letters in the style of the famous Hollywood sign.
Both the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the organized Estonian Jewish community had accused the museum of ridiculing and mocking the memory of the Holocaust. In light of public feedback, the museum decided to remove two of the works, curator Rael Artel told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.
“The topic is difficult and emotionally exhausting,” she said. “We have unintentionally insulted the local Jewish community by exhibiting these artworks. We are sorry.
The time is not right to discuss historically painful topics with the mediation of so provocative artworks,” she said.
In response, Dr. Efraim Zuroff, the head of the Wiesenthal Center’s Jerusalem bureau, said that he is happy “that they acknowledged that those films could be offensive, but the problem is that other parts of the exhibition are in bad taste and it’s unfortunate that they didn’t shut down the whole thing.”
“At least the most offensive part has been removed,” he added, thanking the Estonia Jewish community for speaking out.