Art in the Shoah, an exhibition at the Lateran University

The Pontifical Lateran University inaugurated on Thursday, April 28, the exhibition “Art in the Shoah”, with selected works from the Yad Vashem collection. “The human spirit is stronger than anything,” Raphael Schutz, Israel’s ambassador to the Holy See, told Vatican Radio-Vatican News.

Paolo Ondarza – Vatican City

“My body is weak and skeletal, but my soul is free.” These are the last verses of Grete Schmahl-Wolf, written on her deathbed in the Theresienstadt ghetto. The free souls despite the imprisonment, persecution and extermination of the Jewish people by the Nazis are also those of the artists exhibited in the exhibition “Art in the Shoah”, promoted by the Embassy of Israel to the Holy See and presented to from April 28. at the Pontifical Lateran University of Rome. The paintings and drawings were selected from the collection of Yad Vashem, the world center for Holocaust remembrance, documentation, research and education founded in 1953.

theater and humanity

The helplessness of the refugees, the impossibility of fleeing, the sudden evacuation of their homes, the panic, the frosty days, the queue for food, the inexorable sentence of death and, despite everything, human solidarity: these themes they follow one another in the works reproduced in panels -50 x 70 cm- exhibited for 15 days in the halls of the Pontifical University where, this Thursday morning, the opening of the exhibition took place.

Speakers included the Israeli Ambassador to the Holy See, Raphael Schutz, the Secretary General of the Italian Episcopal Conference, Msgr. Stefano Russo, the poet and witness of the Holocaust, Edith Bruck, the Biblical scholar Msgr. Rector of the Lateran University, Vincenzo Buonomo.

Art in the camps

The creation of the twenty works reproduced in the exhibition dates back to the years of the Holocaust:The majority of themexplains to Vatican News Raphael Schutz, Israel’s ambassador to the Holy See, they were created while the artists were in the concentration camps. Some were produced later, while others were executed at the time of Liberation.”. Among the perpetrators are those who died in the fields. His drawings, made from improvised materials such as burnt branches on wrapping paper, signed with pseudonyms and then hidden or given to friends and family, testify to the desire to live, to the struggle against a process of dehumanization and annihilation. They bear witness to the human spirit that stands firm and refuses to give up.

all human feelings

Ambassador Raphael Schutz continues: “It is amazing to see how in these works, created in extremely harsh and difficult circumstances, all the nuances of human feelings emerge: there is sadness and despair, but also optimism, hope and even a sense of humor.“. This exhibition shows that the human spirit is stronger than anything. For the diplomat, the exhibition also has a very personal meaning: “I was born in Israel. My parents in Germany, but they had to leave before the Second World War: part of my family stayed there, then died in the concentration camps.“.

Together to heal the world

For Raphael Schutz, holding an exhibition dedicated to the art of the Shoah at the Lateran University brings added value to relations between the Holy See and Israel, between the Holy See and Judaism. “We appreciate the opportunity to present the exhibition here. I believe that the vision expressed by Pope Francis in Laudato sì, but also in Fratelli tutti, is common to the Jewish concept of Tikkun Olam, which in Italian means repairing, healing the world. In this sense, I believe that Israel and the Holy See can work together to find concrete ways to advance this universal humanist vision.”

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