Artist turns German synagogue into gas chamber
13 March 2006, PULHEIM, GERMANY - A Spanish conceptual artist was roundly criticised for transforming an unused synagogue into a gas chamber on Sunday as part of a project to draw attention to the Holocaust.
13 March 2006
PULHEIM, GERMANY - A Spanish conceptual artist was roundly criticised for transforming an unused synagogue into a gas chamber on Sunday as part of a project to draw attention to the Holocaust.
Santiago Sierra directed the poisonous exhaust fumes from six cars through long, black tubes into the former place of worship in the small town of Pulheim, near the city of Cologne.
The action was "an insult to the victims" of the Holocaust that went well beyond the bounds of acceptability, said Stephan J. Kramer, secretary-general of the Central Council of Jews in Germany.
Visitors wearing breathing equipment were allowed inside the synagogue one at a time in the company of a fireman to spend a couple of minutes walking around the carbon-monoxide-filled room.
A queue formed outside the building shortly after the event began at 11 a.m.
Sierra, 39, said in a statement that he wanted to draw attention to "the banal way in which the Holocaust is remembered" and encourage reflection on how guilt is perceived.
Kramer said the event was a provocation to the victims, not the perpetrators of the Holocaust.
"If this is a new form of remembrance, should we then go ahead and reopen Auschwitz, distributing gas masks to visitors so they can experience at first-hand what it must have been like?", Kramer asked.
The internationally known artist, who lives in Mexico City, has been involved in other provocative works in past, including tattooing the backs of six unemployed Cubans and dying the hair of Africans blonde to make them look European.
The Pulheim project, called 245 cubic metres, is scheduled to take place on Sundays except for Easter Sunday until April 30.
The synagogue has not been used as a place of prayer since the 1920s. It was turned into a stable after the Nazis came to power in the 1930s, but survived World War II undamaged.
Since 1991, annual art events have taken place there every year, involving well-known figures like Eduardo Chillida and Richard Serra.
In Berlin, meanwhile, unidentified vandals daubed anti-Semitic slogans on two Jewish monuments over the weekend.
One of the targets was a synagogue that served as a wartime gathering point for Jews being transported to concentration camps. The other was a remembrance plaque for Jews killed by the Nazis.
Subject: German news