OSWIECIM, Poland (Reuters) – David Olere, a former Auschwitz prisoner who helped dispose of bodies at the Nazi death camp, depicted his trauma of the horrors he witnessed in haunting drawings and paintings.
Now more than 80 of those artworks have gone on display at an exhibition at the Auschwitz Memorial in Oswiecim, Poland.
“David Olere: The One Who Survived Crematorium III,” shows the extermination process which took place at Auschwitz during the Holocaust through the late painter’s own eyes.
A French Jew of Polish descent, Olere was part of a special unit of male Jewish prisoners, dubbed the Sonderkommando, chosen by the Nazis to discard the bodies of those killed in gas chambers.
“He is the only witness who documented this unimaginable cruelty in the form of paintings and drawings,” Agnieszka Sieradzka, an art historian at the Museum Collections and one of the curators of the exhibition, said in a press release.
Born in Warsaw in 1902, Olere studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in the Polish capital before eventually settling in Paris. He was arrested in 1943 and deported to Auschwitz, one of several concentration camps operated by the Nazis on Polish soil during the Holocaust in which some six million Jews were killed.
His grandson Marc Oler described the artist, who died in 1985, as “very, very tough, very, very talented, very, very traumatized”.
“David Olere wanted the next generation to be aware so they could be … (spared) the horrors that he had been through and know peace,” Oler, who attended the exhibition’s opening on Tuesday, said.
The exhibition, which runs until March, displays its own collection of Olere’s artwork as well as many others on loan from Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and France’s Memorial de la Shoah.
(Reporting by Reuters Television and Joanna Plucinska; Editing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian)