Centre for Jewish Studies (University of Leeds)

Monday, 14 March 6 pm 

Dr Dominic Williams (Northumbria)

‘Birkenau in the Reichstag Building: Gerhard Richter’s Painting and the Auschwitz Sonderkommando Photographs’

The photographs taken by a member of the Auschwitz Sonderkommando around Crematorium V in the summer of 1944 are some of the most important images from the Holocaust. In this talk, I consider one major recent response to these photographs by the painter Gerhard Richter: the series Birkenau (2014), installed (in digital reproduction) in the Reichstag building in Berlin in 2017. I discuss the paintings themselves, created by reproducing and then overpainting the photographs on four large canvases. I then consider how they and the original photographs are displayed together in the Reichstag building, and what they might tell us about the memory of the Holocaust in Germany today.

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