Art exhibit with contested Auschwitz relics to go ahead

Beit Berl College to allow artifacts to be displayed, after student clarified she took them from outside of death camp

Detail of a Yedioth Ahronoth magazine cover showing student Rotem Bides, 27, and some of the artifacts she stole from Auschwitz (Times of Israel)
Detail of a Yedioth Ahronoth magazine cover showing student Rotem Bides, 27, and some of the artifacts she stole from Auschwitz (Times of Israel)

The final project of an art student who said she used artifacts she had removed from Auschwitz will go on display, as she has clarified that they came from outside the former Nazi camp.

Beit Berl College near Kfar Saba in central Israel announced late last week following a disciplinary hearing with student Rotem Bides, 27, the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, that the exhibition would go on as planned.

The news site Ynet reported last week that Bides had visited the Auschwitz site six times while an exchange student in Krakow, and removed relics including shards of glass, small bowls, a metal screw, soil and a sign warning visitors not to take anything from the former Nazi camp. It said the Auschwitz authorities were preparing legal action to retrieve the artifacts.

Bides later clarified that she did not steal the items, but gathered the objects, including glass, soil and rocks, and an old sign, from outside the camp.

“The student said her words were taken out of context by the journalists who interviewed her and that they put words in her mouth,” the management of the college said in a statement, Haaretz reported.

“The student sent a letter of clarification to the college management, stating she had committed nothing criminal like stealing and apologizing to anyone offended by the report. The college decided to allow her to present her final project at the exhibition. Also, the college will send a letter to the Auschwitz museum to clear up any misunderstanding caused by the erroneous report,” the statement also said.

The exhibit will go on display to the public on July 26. It also will include a letter explaining her creative process.

After the publication of the original Ynet article, the museum called on Israel’s state attorney to intercede and return the relics.

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