Groups representing Holocaust survivors have asked Poland’s president to explain why artists were allowed to film a naked game of tag (warning: graphic images) inside a gas chamber in the former Nazi death camp of Stutthof.
On Wednesday, the Organization of Holocaust Survivors in Israel, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and several other groups sent the request for clarification to President Andrzej Duda in connection with a video that the Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow displayed in 2015 without divulging any details on where it was filmed. The letter was sent after research revealed the location was Stutthof, near Gdansk, Poland.
“At the time, no comment or word of critique was heard from Polish official sources regarding the video, neither from the Prime Minister’s office, nor from any official/ government representative- not Poland’s Ministry of Culture or Foreign Ministry, or from Krakow’s city mayor,” the statement said.
“Extensive research recently revealed that the site where the video was filmed is the gas chamber at the Stutthof concentration camp, and it is this discovery which prompted the demand for clarifications from the Polish leaders and the administration of the Stutthof concentration camp site (and museum),” it said.
The organizations that co-signed the letter Wednesday asked to know whether the artists did “obtain permission from the Stutthof administrators to make this video, what rules exist for proper conduct at the site, how these are enforced” and whether an investigation of the circumstances of the making of the video had been carried out, the Simon Wiesenthal Center wrote in a statement about the letter.
Following protests by Jewish groups and community leaders, the Krakow museum pulled the exhibition but then reinstated it, defending it as falling under freedom of artistic expression.
The video was part of an exhibition titled “Poland – Israel – Germany. The experience of Auschwitz,” which opened in 2015 in Krakow, about the former Nazi death camp’s impact on public discourse. It was endorsed and sponsored by the Israeli Embassy in Poland.
But after drawing considerable criticism from Jewish advocacy groups, the embassy called for the video’s removal.
“The embassy has learned of criticism regarding the video in question and has contacted organizers with a request that the parts deemed offensive be removed,” Michael Sobelman, the embassy’s spokesman, told JTA at the time.
The installation, called “Game of Tag,” also was displayed at an art museum in Estonia before being pulled following protests.
“It is the most disgusting thing I’ve seen in a long time,” Efraim Zuroff, the Wiesenthal Center’s chief Nazi hunter, said in 2015 about the exhibition. “They lied about it. It is just revolting and a total insult to the victims and anyone with any sense of morality or integrity.”