Hitler art installation stirs controversy in Poland

10 January 2013


The face of Adolf Hitler on the shoulders of a young, kneeling boy stares out from a building in Warsaw. The statue by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan isn't new - but what many are shocked by, is the location. This run down old building is one of the few remaining from what was once the Warsaw Ghetto. Hundreds of thousands of Jews died here during World War II, confined by the occupying Nazis in squalid conditions. Little surprise that the work, entitled 'HIM', has triggered such a strong reaction:

VOX: Bozena, Warsaw resident (11 sec, Polish):

"It's shocking! Just shocking. After all the suffering we endured, all that our parents told us about ... to see Hitler kneeling here ... I'm speechless."

But the statue is visible only from behind - through a small opening in wooden gate. The face isn't visible to the public. The Polish Centre for Contemporary Art which is behind the installation, says it is not out to insult the Jewish community, but to explore the nature of evil.

SOUNDBITE 1: Justyna Wesolowska, curator of Maurizio Cattelan's exhibition in Warsaw (14 sec, Polish):

"People think they know exactly what the face of evil looks like, but Cattelan's work suggests its naive to think you can ever put evil to rest by filing it away in a drawer with a certain period of history."

Maurizio Cattelan's work hasn't gone unnoticed by Warsaw's Jewish community. The statue is close to the Jewish theatre and Warsaw's synagogue. Poland's chief rabbi has expressed concern.

SOUNDBITE 2: Michael Schudrich, chief rabbie of Poland (18 sec in English):

"When it comes to showing the figure of Hitler, we have an extra responsibility to be sensitive to those who suffered. To place it right here, on Prozna Street, part of the old Warsaw Ghetto is lacking in that sensitivity."

Challenging sensitivities is something Maurizio Cattelan is known for. His other works have depicted Pope John Paul II being struck by a meteorite - and a middle finger salute outside Milan's stock exchange.


WARSAW, 4-5 JAN, 2013


- Bystanders come to see the statue of Adolf Hitler kneeling (4 shots)

- Illustration of the old Warsaw Ghetto with portraits of its inhabitants (4 shots)


- Bystanders come to see the statue of Adolf Hitler kneeling (3 shots)

- The curator of the "Amen" exhibition (3 shots)


- Michael Schudrich, Chief Rabbi of Poland (1 shot)

- Synagogue in Warsaw (1 shot)

- Michael Schudrich, Chief Rabbi of Poland (1 shot)


- A real dead horse, one of the works by Maurizio Cattelan exhibited in Warsaw (2 shots)

- Picture of « La Nona Ora » from Maurizio Cattelan, representing Pope John Paul II being struck by a meteorite (source AFP)

- Middle finger salute outside Milan's stock exchange (archive from 5.09.2011) (2 shots)

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