A Swedish artist, Carl Michael von Hausswolff, has stirred up controversy in his home country for blending the ashes of Holocaust victims, taken from a concentration camp, in water and using the resulting admixture to paint a picture. The morbid work, which the Daily Mail described as a “small painting of grey streaks,” is currently on display in a gallery in the Swedish city of Lund.
Salomon Schulman, a Jewish community leader who said he had lost relatives to the Nazi death machine, condemned the painting as “revolting” and said he would boycott the gallery where the work was on display.
“Who knows, maybe some of the ashes originated from my relatives,” Schulman wrote in the Swedish newspaper Sydsvenskan. “No one knows where they were deported: All my mother’s siblings and their children, and my grandparents.”
Schulman added that he was “sickened” by von Hausswolff’s work and “obsession with necrophilia.”
The artist, meanwhile, defended his use of the ashes, claiming they contained “the memories and the souls of people: people tormented and murdered by other people in the most vicious war of the 20th century.”
Martin Bryder, the owner of the Lund gallery, invited Schulman to come view the painting and “judge for himself.”
“Mr Schulman has already declared in the papers that he won’t come and see it, but if he did, perhaps he would have a different opinion,” Bryder told the Polish Press Agency.
Von Hausswolff reportedly took the ashes during a visit to the Majdanek concentration camp near the Polish city of Lublin in 1989. The Nazis are believed to have exterminated more than 79,000 people at the facility between 1941 and 1944 – most of them Polish Jews.