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‘Forbidden Art’ Exhibit Tells Personal Stories of Auschwitz Prisoners

CHICOPEE – An upcoming exhibition at the College of Our Lady of the Elms showcases photos of 20 rare pieces of art created by prisoners of Nazi concentration camps during World War II.

“Forbidden Art” has been arranged through an ongoing interfaith collaboration with the Elms College Social Work Department and the Women’s Philanthropy Steering Committee, a division of the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts. The installation is made possible through a generous grant from the Jewish Endowment Foundation of Western Massachusetts’ Harold Grinspoon & Diane Troderman Hatikvah Holocaust Education Fund. Additional supporters include the Kosciuszko Foundation’s New England Chapter and the Polish Center of Discovery and Learning.

The exhibit will be shown on the main floor of the Alumnae Library at Elms College from March 19 through April 19.

The pieces – often made using scraps of paper or other discarded materials – feature scenes documenting daily life in the camps as well as portraits of prisoners. They offer a window into how the prisoners mentally escaped the horrors of their imprisonment by creating drawings and paintings, albums of greetings, and even illustrated fairy tales written for their children, with whom they longed to reunite.

The display also includes photos of a bracelet bearing scenes from the Lodz Ghetto that was found near the Auschwitz crematory; a 12-cm-long sarcophagus; and sculptures. Each exhibit piece is set alongside historical commentary and excerpts from archival accounts.

“The artwork provides multiple primary-source documents, just as diaries hidden and later found from the Warsaw Ghetto record experience. The same can be said of Anne Frank’s diary, written while in hiding in an attic in Amsterdam,” said Susan Goldman, vice president of the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts and adjunct faculty in psychology at Elms College.

The original objects are permanently housed at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum of Poland. The exhibit comes to Chicopee directly from the United Nations, where it was on display in January to honor the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

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