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Waldsee 1944

Berlin, Ulm, and New York City

May 1, 2005 through December 31, 2005

 

In the summer of 1944, Hungarian Jews recently deported sent home postcards postmarked “Waldsee.” While “Waldsee,” meaning “Forest Lake,” sounds picturesque and plausible—and corresponds with actual places in Austria and Switzerland—a member of Budapest’s Jewish Council, which had been charged with delivering these postcards, noticed that the “Waldsee” postmark appeared superimposed over the name of someplace ending in “-witz.” Later, he discerned “Auschwitz” on a card sent to him by two acquaintances who had signed themselves with Hebrew words for “hungry” and  “unclothed” to indicate their true circumstances. In fact, the SS dictated such postcards to concentration camp prisoners, often en-route to the gas chamber. 

 

In 2004, András Böröcz, Artistic Director of ALMA ON DOBBIN, inspired by the discovery of some of these postcards in the Budapest Jewish Museum, joined fellow curators Robbin Silverberg and László Böröcz of Alma and 2B Gallery to invite emerging, mid-career, and established international artists to submit a postcard-sized work of any medium reflecting on the Holocaust in Hungary 60 years earlier. “Waldsee 1944” was originally presented in May 2004 at the 2B Gallery in Budapest, Hungary, as a tribute to the 600,000 Hungarian Jews who perished in World War II. The critically acclaimed show was a media sensation in Hungary, and focused attention on the hitherto little-known and sometimes misunderstood “Waldsee” postcards.

The original Budapest exhibition traveled to the Collegium Hungaricum in Berlin, Germany, and then traveled to New York City to the Museum at the Hebrew Union College from July 2005 to January 2006. The exhibition was extended by several months due to the acclaim it received. Additional artists were asked to join the exhibition in New York at the invitation of the original curators, Robbin Silverberg and András Böröcz, and by Laura Kruger of the host museum.

 

A $5,000.00 grant from the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation contributed to the planning and organization of this exhibition, as well as the creation and production of the New York catalogue, which included all the works exhibited and the translation of the work into English. Following the New York show, the exhibition returned to Germany, to the Donauschwabishes Zentralmuseum, Ulm, May to August 2006, titled “Waldsee 1944: Schone Grusse von Auschwitz”  [Greetings from Auschwitz].  There, following the tradition established in New York, German artists joined the exhibition as well. The show has continued to travel over the past three years in the US.

 

As Hedvid Turai observed, writing about this exhibition:

“The Waldsee postcard is a part of a densely woven texture of Nazi lies intended to disavow the genocidal reality of the concentration camp and help reconcile both victim and perpetrator to its intolerable nature. As the historian Saul Friedlander has pointed out, the euphemisms and bureaucratic jargon employed by the Nazis inserted the horrible events into the banal course of everyday life and showed that everything followed a normal course according to laws dictated by necessity.” He points out that this exhibition played an important role in Hungary beginning to address the murder of Hungarian Jews and continuing antisemitism in Central and Eastern Europe, a discourse long suppressed and distorted under communist rule.

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© ALMA 2014