On the trail of art after the horrors of Auschwitz. Dispatches from a study trip.
According to the former President of the German Parliament Prof. Norbert Lammert, “[…] helping to find a solid position for the artistic-aesthetic confrontation with our country and our history” is the reason why the German Parliament decided to house the “Birkenau” series of paintings. The four paintings were created by the artist Gerhard Richter. They are based on four photographs that were secretly taken by prisoners in the Birkenau camp. Although blurred in parts, they show scenes of violence and terror. They are testimony to and evidence of the crimes committed by the National Socialists against humanity.
The confrontation with National Socialism has occupied Richter for a long time, and he was unable to shake the impact of the historical photographs taken in 1944. He decided to work on them as a piece of art. A glance at the history of art shows that the artistic confrontation with Auschwitz and the Holocaust has been and continues to be a controversial issue. Is it legitimate to use art as a vehicle for processing a crime as heinous as this? This question was the starting point for the study trip organised by the International Association for Education and Exchange (IBB) and Porta Polonica. It is worth mentioning at this point that, even after a week of intensive confrontation with the painting series, the participants in the study trip, which we called “ ‘Birkenau’ by Gerhard Richter – A Site Visit”, weren’t able to find all the answers to this (and other) questions.
 Online services of the German Federal Parliament: Gerhard Richter presents the “Birkenau” series of paintings to the Federal Parliament, URL: bundestag.de/dokumente/textarchiv/2017/kw36-richter-birkenau-525720, last accessed on 17/10/2019.
 More information can be found in the article “‘Birkenau’ by Gerhard Richter” on the page: https://www.porta-polonica.de/en/atlas-of-remembrance-places/birkenau-gerhard-richter,last accessed on 19/12/19.