The Polish Mission team has just returned from a great trip to Las Vegas. The Forbidden Art exhibition from the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum (A-BSM) presented in partnership with The Polish Mission made its debut in Nevada’s most well-known city on February 7, with a special endorsement by the President Barack Obama:
“Exhibitions like Forbidden Art bring to light the stories of fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, and brothers and sisters who endured the unthinkable cruelty of concentration camps.” -Barack Obama
The 3330kg exhibition arrived from UCLA on Monday, February 4 in two trucks to Temple Beth Sholom, one of the oldest and most vibrant Synagogues in the Southern Nevada, located in the western part of town. There, US Project Coordinator JJ Przewozniak with the help of Beth Sholom’s maintenance team carefully unpackaged and constructed the twenty-panel exhibition in the regal hall that would be opened to exhibition guests two days later.
Each of the panels exhibits an illuminated image and presents a unique story behind the original artwork that was made by an inmate while imprisoned. The pieces chosen for the Forbidden Art project were selected from a collection of thousands of such objects in the collections at A-BSM. They were chosen specifically to invite guests to experience a degree of intimacy with not only the inmates who created the objects, but also with the horrific concentration camp experience itself. The exhibited artwork allowed their creators to mentally and emotionally escape, albeit briefly, from the horrors of life in a concentration camp.
This showing at Temple Beth Sholom marks the fifth stop on the North American tour, orchestrated by The Polish Mission. Previous showings took place at the Polish Mission’s Galeria, Detroit’s Wayne State University, Chicago’s Northeastern Illinois University, and UCLA. This has been the first time A-BSM director Dr. Piotr M.A. Cywinski has traveled to personally open the exhibition.
Dr. Cywinski arrived in Las Vegas on Tuesday, February 5 with Auschwitz Foundation Director General Jacek Kastelaniec , and Executive Assistant Magdalena Tabak. Along with Polish Mission Chairman Dr. Stanley Majewski and his wife Alice, Polish Mission Director Marcin Chumiecki, and JJ Przewozniak, the delegation was hosted by Polish Honorary Consul John Petkus, and supported by Eliot Karp and the Las Vegas Jewish Federation, and Las Vegas business magnate Steve Wynn. Numerous meetings, and radio and television interviews, heightened the anticipation for the opening evening.
Over 350 high-profile quests were in attendance at the opening. After opening remarks by Rabbi Felipe Goodman, Polish Consul Malgorzata Cup, Jewish Federation CEO Eliot Karp, and Nevada Lieutenant Governor Brian Krolicki, Dr. Cywinski emphasized the critical importance of preserving the heritage and future of the Auschwitz site through education and conservation, citing the objects presented in the Forbidden Art exhibition as prime example of the legacy of the museum holdings at the almostr 200 hectare World Heritage site.
“Memory is carried on by the words of the survivors. But it is also stored in the objects remaining at Auschwitz. These are two faces of the same authenticity.” – Dr. Cywinski