Note No. 5914/Rev.1


Press Release
Note No. 5914/Rev.1*

Note to Correspondents



The exhibition entitled “Auschwitz – the Depth of the Abyss” will open in the north-east gallery of the General Assembly Visitors’ Lobby on Monday, 24 January 2005, at 6 p.m., three days before the official sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camps in Europe, 27 January.  The Secretary-General, and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of the State of Israel, Silvan Shalom, will make opening remarks in a formal opening ceremony followed by a reception.  The exhibit will be comprised of two parts.

The Auschwitz Album

The Auschwitz Album is the only surviving visual evidence of the process of mass murder at Auschwitz-Birkenau.  The photos were taken at the end of May or beginning of June 1944, either by Ernst Hofmann or by Bernhard Walter, two SS men whose task was to take ID photos and fingerprints of the inmates.  The photos show the arrival of Hungarian Jews from Carpatho-Ruthenia.  Many of them came from the Berehov Ghetto, which itself was a collecting point for Jews from several other small towns.

The early summer of 1944 was the apex of the deportation of Hungarian Jewry.  For this purpose, a special rail line was extended from the railway station outside the camp to a ramp inside Auschwitz.  Many of the photos in the album were taken on the ramp.  The Jews then went through a selection process, carried out by SS doctors and wardens.  Those considered fit for work were sent into the camp, where they were registered, deloused and distributed to the barracks.  The rest were sent to the gas chambers.  The photos in the album show the entire process except for the killing itself.

Private Tolkatchev at Gates of Hell

With the USSR entering the war in June 1941, Zinovii Tolkatchev, a Ukrainian artist, volunteered to join the front.  However, only towards the end of the war, in Autumn 1944, did army officials respond to Tolkatchev’s request, and he was sent to serve in the Political Department in the First Ukrainian Front, which at the time was stationed in Lublin, adjacent to the Majdanek extermination camp.  Horrified by the scenes he witnessed, Tolkatchev, in a spiritual whirlwind, immersed himself for 35 days, with hardly any food or sleep, in painting the Majdanek series.  In it, Tolkatchev’s was able to create, as if from nowhere, a set of symbols that express the horrors of the Majdanek extermination camp.

At the end of January 1945, Tolkatchev accompanied the Nazi Crimes Investigation Commission to Auschwitz, literally hours after the entrance of the Red Army into the camp.  He was seized by the urge to capture the scenes, the voices.  In the absence of drawing paper he entered the camp’s former headquarters and took stationery with bold black letters: “Kommandantur Konzentrationslager Auschwitz; I.G. Farbenindustrie Aktiengesellschaft; Der Oberpräsident der Provinz Oberschlesien”.  The typography became an integral part of the composition and the image of the Nazi oppressor.  As if possessed by madness, he drew sketches of what he saw.  Abutting the sketches, he added densely written lines with the testimony of the few survivors able to utter words.  Adjacent, he jotted repeatedly -- “to remember, not to forget”.  By using meagre materials of pencil and paper, intimate in scale, Tolkatchev succeeded in creating art of monumental scope.  The understanding that on those very same pieces of paper just a few days prior were written orders of extermination endow them with a tragic power.

This exhibit is sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel and is curated by Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority, Jerusalem.  It will remain open to the public, with free admission, until 11 March 2005, Monday to Friday, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (seven days a week during March).

For more information about the exhibition, call Jan Arnesen at tel.:  (212) 963-8531; Liza Wichmann at tel.:  (212) 963-0089; Keren Tenenbaum at the Permanent Mission of Israel to the UN, tel.:  (212) 499-5548, or visit the Web site:

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*     Reissued to add material on Zinovii Tolkatchev.

For information media. Not an official record.