Photograph of the letter B from a wrought iron sign bearing the German phrase Arbeit Macht Frei, (Work makes you free) from over the entrance to a Nazi concentration camp, probably Auschwitz. The B is backwards as a prisoner would see it from inside the camp.
Exhibition Label, 40 Years / 40 Artists, January 22–March 8, 2015:
Second World War and Poland’s part in it is a recurrent theme in Balka’s art, which is subtle and full of emotion. This lithograph is a still image from his video “B”, installed here in 2009. Despite the horrific historic location of Auschwitz, Balka succeeds in questioning how the Holocaust should be remembered or even represented.
The slogan “Arbeit macht frei” was placed at the entrances to a number of Nazi concentration camps, including Auschwitz where it was made by prisoners with metalwork skills and erected by order of the Nazis in June 1940. “Arbeit macht frei” (literally “work makes free”) is a German phrase that can be translated as “work liberates” or “work sets you free”.
The upper bowl in the “B” in “ARBEIT” is wider than the lower bowl, appearing to some as upside-down. Allegedly it was made on purpose by political prisoners
to make a signal what is really going on in Auschwitz. - Loretta Yarlow
architecture; civil rights; crime; deaths; labor; memory; military; politics; social commentary; wars; Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945)
Link to share this object record: