Buchenwald Art Gallery

The Buchenwald art exhibit features Holocaust art, mainly drawings and paintings done by inmates of the camp. Some of this artwork was officially sanctioned by their Nazi captors, but most of the art on display was done in secret, or by survivors after they were liberated.

One room in the art gallery is devoted to the work of Artist Jozef Szajna who enlarged photographs of Buchenwald inmates and then pasted these photos on huge cardboard cutouts, as shown in the photographs below.

Art exhibit shows pile of prisoner shoes

The picture above shows a pile of shoes worn by the inmates including two pairs of women's shoes, one of which is a pair of white high-heeled pumps and one that looks a pair of white ballet style slippers. There is no display anywhere in the camp of the wooden clogs that were worn by some of the prisoners in the other camps.

The picture below shows two German soldiers, standing respectfully with their hats in their hands, in front of a Szajna cutout photograph of a Buchenwald political prisoner. Their grandfathers died fighting Communism, only to have their sons and grandsons raised under Communism.

German soldiers examine photo cutout of political prisoner

Artwork made from huge enlargement of inmate photo

Metal artwork done by Buchenwald camp survivor

The former disinfection building at Buchenwald, which was built in 1942, was converted into an art museum in 1990. The photo below was taken on my visit to Buchenwald in 1999.

Former disinfection building was converted into an art museum

When the camp was in operation, prisoners were taken to the disinfection building upon arrival. The procedure was to shave the new prisoner's head and all his body hair in an attempt to control lice which spreads typhus. Then his civilian clothing would be surrendered and disinfected with Zyklon-B, an insecticide which was also used in the death camps for gassing the Jews.

The clothing and personal possessions were then kept in the nearby storehouse until such time as the prisoner would be released. (In the early days of the concentration camps, before the start of World War II, many prisoners were released after serving an indeterminate sentence.) After that, the prisoner would be dipped into a disinfection solution and then chased naked through an underground tunnel to the neighboring storehouse where he would receive a striped blue and gray uniform that looked like a pair of pajamas.

Buchenwald Museum


This page was last updated on September 14, 2009