Concentration camp 'Forbidden Art' displayed at Polish Museum of America

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A new exhibit at the Polish Museum of America gives us a new look at the terrible years of Nazi concentration camps. (WLS)

The horrors of the World War II Nazi concentration camps are still very much with us and a new exhibit at the Polish Museum of America gives us a new look at those terrible years.

Art and creativity are not generally associated with Auschwitz and Birkenau, and other concentration camps, but that is what is on display at the exhibit called "Forbidden Art." Twenty large panels filled with images from one of the most terrible times in the history of man.

"These are photographs of original drawing and paintings that were either buried, snuck out or found in the Nazi occupied camps in Poland," said Maria Ciesla, President, Polish Museum of America.

Over 2,000 works were discovered after the war and belong to the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Poland. The Chicago exhibit displays just 20 pieces selected to tour the world. All of them were created by prisoners in total secrecy. They were all risking their lives.

"They were punishable by death, immediate execution," Ciesla said.

Stanley Lyskanowski and his friend Jan Krawiec are both concentration camp survivors. They have visited the exhibit several times and each time the memories come back. Memories of those faces filled with fear and memories of their own years spent in the camps so close to death.

"It's like a nightmare," Lyskanowski said. "It's just one of those things that, it's hard to accept that such a thing every existed."

No one knows how many artists and sculptors were executed or how many survived. All we know is that they never stopped creating.

"They wanted to leave something for outside world, what happened, what was going on in the concentration camps," Krawiec said.

The exhibit contains many different kinds of are, but one thing to notice when walking through is that despite the conditions in those camps, there was always hope.

"It proves that under the most intolerable and unbelievable conditions hope and creativity still thrive," Ciesla said.

"Forbidden Art" runs at the Polish Museum of America until Jan. 11, 2015.
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societyartnazisWorld War IImuseum exhibitnationalu.s. & worldChicago - Goose Island
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