Κυριακή, 22 Δεκεμβρίου 2013

David Olère, the illustrator of the Auschwitz horror

inside the gas chambers
David Olère (1902 – 1985) was a Polish-born French painter and sculptor best known for his explicit drawings and paintings based on his experiences as Jewish Sonderkommando inmate at Auschwitz concentration campduring World War II.

On February 20, 1943, Olère was arrested by French police during a round up of Jews in Seine-et-Oise and placed in Drancy internment camp. On March 2, 1943, he was one of approximately 1,000 Jews deported from Drancy to Auschwitz. From this transport, Olere was one of 119 people selected for work; the rest were gassed shortly after arrival. He was registered as prisoner 106144 and assigned to the Sonderkommando at Birkenau, the unit of prisoners forced to empty gas chambers and burn the bodies, firstly working in Bunker 2 and later in Crematorium III. In addition to these duties, he was also forced to work as an illustrator, writing and decorating letters for the SS.

throwing alive babies in furnaces
Olère remained at Auschwitz until January 19, 1945, when he was taken on the evacuation death march, eventually reaching Mauthausen concentration camp, then the Melk and Ebensee subcamps, from which he made five unsuccessful escape attempts. Following his liberation on May 6, 1945, he learned that his entire family had been exterminated in Warsaw. He subsequently moved back to Paris.


Olère began to draw at Auschwitz during the last days of the camp, when the SS became less attentive. His work has exceptional documentary value: there are no photos of what happened in the gas chambers and crematoria, and Olère was the only artist to have worked as a member of the Sonderkommando and survived. He was also the first witness to draw plans and cross-sections to explain how the crematoria worked.


Olère felt compelled to capture Auschwitz artistically to illustrate the fate of all those that did not survive. He sometimes depicts himself in his paintings as a ghostly witnessing face in the background. He exhibited his work at the State Museum of Les Invalidesand the Grand Palais in Paris, at the Jewish Museum in New York City, at the Berkeley Museum, and in Chicago. He retired from being an artist in 1962, and died in 1985. His widow and son have continued to inform the world about Auschwitz via his artwork.





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