An artist has caused huge controversy after placing a statue of Adolf Hitler praying on his knees in the former Warsaw Ghetto, the Daily Mail reports.
In total, around 300,000 Jews from the Ghetto died or were sent to their death in concentration camps.
The statue by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, entitled “HIM”, has attracted a large number of visitors since its installation last month, reported the Daily Mail.
The work is visible only from a distance, and the artist has not said what he intends viewers to read into Hitler’s pose.
Organizers of the exhibition of which the statue is a part say its point is to make people reflect on the nature of evil, but some are angered by its placement in such a sensitive site.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center this week called the statue’s placement “a senseless provocation which insults the memory of the Nazis’ Jewish victims,” according to the Daily Mail.
“As far as the Jews were concerned, Hitler’s only ‘prayer’ was that they be wiped off the face of the earth,” the group’s Israel director, Efraim Zuroff, was quoted as having said.
At the same time, others have praised the artwork’s emotional impact, and organizers defended putting it on display in the former ghetto.
Fabio Cavallucci, director of the Centre for Contemporary Art, which oversaw the installation, said, according to the Daily Mail, “There is no intention from the side of the artist or the center to insult Jewish memory.”
“It’s an artwork that tries to speak about the situation of hidden evil everywhere,” claimed Cavallucci.
The Warsaw Ghetto was an area of the city which the Nazis sealed off after they invaded Poland.
They forced Jews to live in cramped, inhuman conditions there as they awaited deportation to death camps.
Many died from hunger or disease or were shot by the Germans before they could be transported to the camps.
Even though the Ghetto housed 30 per cent of Warsaw’s population, it occupied just one-fortieth of the city’s area, leading to unbearably cramped conditions. The area was plagued with disease and starvation, causing the deaths of thousands – but the worst horrors came between July and September 1942, when more than 250,000 residents were sent to the Treblinka camp, where nearly all were murdered by the Nazis.
In January 1943, German soldiers started another round of deportations, but this time the Jewish residents fought back.
The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising briefly succeeded in stopping the deportations, but later that year was brutally put down. 56,000 Jews were killed or deported in retribution.
Cattelan caused controversy in Warsaw in 2000 when another gallery showed his work ‘La Nona Ora’ – ‘The Ninth Hour’ – which depicts Pope John Paul II being crushed by a meteorite. That offended many in Poland, which is deeply Catholic and was John Paul’s homeland.
(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)
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