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Holocaust Victim’s Ashes Allegedly Used In Artwork, Polish Officials Investigate

The artist is being accused by Polish officials of stealing ashes from the crematorium furnaces from a German death camp.

People choose a variety of ways to remember those killed during the Holocaust. A plethora of art, sculpture, and literature has made its way out of the years of brutality. While some family members have taken to tattooing their descendent’s Nazi-given numbers on their forearms, one Swedish artist decided to use a more controversial means to remember those lost.

Polish officials are investigating a Swedish artist’s claim that he used stolen ashes of Holocaust victims to make a painting. The act could lead to a prison sentence of up to eight years.

Carl Michael von Hausswolff’s painting “Memory Works” was on exhibit last year in the Bryder Gallery in Lund, Sweden. On the gallery’s website, the Swedish artist wrote that he made the painting by mixing water with ashes that he took from a crematorium furnace in 1989.

The furnaces, found in Majdenak, a former Nazy German death camp, are located in eastern Poland. Von Hausswolff was on a visit there when he allegedly took ashes from the furnaces, which he later used in his recent painting. While there is no video surveillance confirming the author’s claims, spokeswoman Beata Syk-Jankowska said Tuesday that prosecutors in Poland have opened an investigation into the case. For now, she says there is no evidence, and that investigators are acting merely on media reports.

The painting is composed of brown and gray brush strokes that give the impression of a group of people huddled together. The artist claims that the painting is in memory of those who suffered at the hands of the Nazis during the Holocaust, and that the painting “represents the suffering of the victims.”

“People tortured, tormented and murdered by other people in one of the most ruthless wars of the 20th century,” he said.

If found guilty of using actual human remains, he could be charged with desecrating human ashes and their resting place, charges which could lead to eight years in prison.

Between 1941 and 1944, some 150,000 people were held at the Majdanek camp. An estimated 80,000 of them died, most of whom were Jewish.

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