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Brutally necessary: Art from the Holocaust

In a shudderingly explicit new exhibition, Berlin hosts 100 works created in the ghettos and camps of WWII Europe. It's art that survived the Holocaust – even if the artists didn't. Discover the beauty formed in an era of darkness, through Apr 3.

Image for Brutally necessary: Art from the Holocaust
Leo Breuer, “Path between the Barracks”, 1941 © Collection of the Yad Vashem Art Museum, Jerusalem

In a world where painting can get you killed, why paint? Because it turns out there’s always a need for art – as this special exhibition shows in brutal detail.

At the German Historical Museum this spring, Art from the Holocaust sees visitors thrown headfirst into the horrors of Nazi-occupied Europe. One hundred pieces from the Vad Yashem World Holocaust Remembrance Centre in Jerusalem adorn the walls. Brought to life in Jewish ghettos and concentration camps in 1939-1945, they’re the footprints of artists who risked death to tell their story to a world many would never return to.

Death looms throughout – not least because 24 of these 50 artists were killed by the Nazi regime. Through harrowingly explicit sketches of life in concentration camps to abstract ideas of humanity unravelling, it’s a collection of broken and unfinished stories. But turn a corner, and suddenly faces gaze back from every angle. Not beaten, scarred, emaciated shadows of faces – just faces. This is art “giving back the subject’s soul,” we discover. Taking the people out of the concentration camps and helping us remember them as humans, not victims.

It’s a disorientating experience. Slices of horror peek through between angular walls, creating a hall that seemingly has no end – and once the door’s shut on the exhibition, it takes a few second to re-adjust to the colours and sounds of life.

ART FROM THE HOLOCAUST Through Apr 3 | German Historical Museum, Unter den Linden 2, Mitte, U-Bhf Friedrichstr., Mon-Sun 10–18