The 60th anniversary of Adolph Eichmann’s trial is remembered in an exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Art


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On December 11, 1961, Adolph Eichmann was convicted by a Jerusalem court for his role in the crime of the century. Snatched by the Israeli intelligence and security organization Mossad in Buenos Aires the year before, one of humanity’s greatest villains would ultimately be held responsible for his role in the Holocaust. On December 15, he was found guilty and sentenced to death.

Eichmann fled to Argentina in the 1950s using so-called rat lines, Nazi escape routes from Europe supported by a network of Nazis, Catholic clergy, and some well-placed officials of the Vatican. With their help, he left Italy with a Red Cross passport and a new name, Ricardo Klement. His wife and three sons joined him in Argentina two years later.

Eichmann, as head of Jewish affairs in Nazi Germany’s secret police, oversaw the forced emigration and mass deportation of millions of people to Nazi extermination camps. He was tried on 15 counts, including crimes against the Jewish people, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Its four-month trial was the first to be broadcast worldwide, capturing around 80% of viewers worldwide in 38 countries, graphically exposing them to the attempted genocide of Europe’s 10 million Jews. by the Nazis. Americans watched evening news coverage on hour-long highlights – often over the lunch hour – and specials on Eichmann, the war, and the Holocaust.

Among those watching from Iowa City, Iowa was a revered professor and printmaker at the University of Iowa, the son of Jewish immigrants from Lithuania, Argentinian-born Mauricio Lasansky (1914-2012).

In response to what he witnessed during the trial – 90 Holocaust survivors telling their stories – Lasansky unleashed his brilliant drawing skills in an eponymous series that would be known as “The Nazi Drawings.”

In recognition of the 60e anniversary of the verdict, the Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia) presents ‘Envisioning Evil: The Nazi Drawings’ by Mauricio Lasansky; »33 large-format drawings confronting the horrors of the Holocaust. Visible until June 26, 2022, this is the first public exhibition of “Nazi Drawings” since it underwent significant conservation.

Become the Holocaust

Mia’s presentation of “The Nazi Drawings” focuses on a fact that will amaze contemporary viewers: The Holocaust, as it is understood today, was largely unknown before the Eichmann trial that took place. more than 20 years after the start of the genocide attempt.

“What I was surprised to find in my research for this exhibit was that the Holocaust, now considered one of the defining catastrophes of the 20th century, was obscured amid the crushing calamity of the Second World War I, exhibit curator Rachel McGarry told Forbes.com.

The Jewish dimension of the war’s unprecedented toll was downplayed during the war by the US government and ignored by the press. McGarry points to Edward Murrow’s famous radio show from Buchenwald on April 15, 1945, which makes no mention of Jewish victims, as an example. She read covers of the “New York Times” from 1938 to 1945, finding little reporting on the plight and mass murder of Jews.

“When Jews were discussed, it was often at the bottom of the newspaper’s pages – prisoners were usually described by nationality,” McGarry explains. “Few people understood the systematic murder of Jews by the Nazis and the process of forgetting began immediately. Much of Europe was in ruins and recovery took years, further delaying recognition, understanding or commemoration of the Holocaust. “

Eichmann’s trial would forever change the WWII narrative in this regard, now centered on the Holocaust. The procession of survivors recounting their personal experiences in harrowing detail has awakened the world to the most horrific “secret” of war. The Holocaust was suddenly understood to be something new and catastrophic in its execution, scope and speed.

“The victims began to materialize as individuals, with names, families and stories,” McGarry said. “In the aftermath of the trial, art, literature, cinema, theater and television also played an essential role in shedding light on the tragedy. Lasansky’s “Nazi drawings” were part of this effort. “

When the first 30 drawings appeared at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City in 1967, visitors lined up around the block to enter. Between 1967 and 1970, “The Nazi Drawings” toured North America from Philadelphia to Tacoma, Washington and from Mexico City to Iowa City. The show drew large crowds and wide attention.

Lasansky depicts the Nazis in skullcaps or as skeletal beasts, attacking, torturing, devouring their victims. Depraved creatures engage in sexual acts amid the carnage. The infants scream alone in terror. On several sheets, Lasansky stenciled the number “5,602,715”, a contemporary estimate of the number of Jews murdered by the Nazis. A self-portrait ends the series representing the artist mutilated and besieged by a beast.

The artist’s anger is palpable in his laconic and jagged lines, his powerful shadows and his brutal handling of the paper and glued elements.

“I was full of hate, poison, and I wanted to spit it out,” Lasansky said of the drawings.

Women, Sex, Violence

While the war was fought by men, “The Nazi Drawings” reminds the public how women no less bear the cost of his business.

“Women occupy a central place in ‘The Nazi Drawings’; Lasansky described them as protective mothers, tortured bodies, dead victims, rape victims and temptresses, “said McGarry, fully aware that” the sexualized portrayal of women in the drawings may strike us as disturbing or taboo today. hui ”.

War is never easy.

“Lasansky specifically spoke out against the Nazis’ denial of human dignity, which turned men into animals,” McGarry said. “The sex shown in its most depraved form – violent, obscene, bought and sold – in ‘The Nazi Cartoons’ is a powerful expression of Nazi transgression. Lasansky described the basic instincts of human behavior: aggression, domination, hunger, and a ruthless will to procreate and survive. He set out to expose human nature in its most reptilian and animalistic aspects, especially in times of war. “

Lasansky’s series and the Mia exhibition draw attention to sexual violence in wartime.

Prostitution and sexual slavery were hallmarks of Nazi Germany. The exhibit tells how some 500 military brothels operated in German-occupied Europe in 1942. It is estimated that nearly 35,000 women were forced into sexual slavery.

Brothels in concentration camps were established in 1942 as part of an incentive system for prison workers.

Millions of women were raped during and immediately after World War II, and hundreds of thousands died as a result of these violent assaults.

A warning

Following the Eichmann trial, Lasansky feared that future exterminations would still occur. Nazi Germany showed, he said, that “everyone is in danger, every minority is in danger”.

Premonitory feelings in light of a global rise in anti-Semitism and a resurgence of white supremacy and white nationalism in America.

“Lasansky would be horrified by the rise of neo-Nazi groups and the dangers posed by white supremacists,” McGarry said. “This is precisely what he feared. This was one of the main reasons the artist felt compelled to make this body of work.

The artist saw it coming, targeting the white supremacists he observed in his time.

“” Nazi drawings “ends with a sort of monumental altarpiece, Triptych; the three panels revisit earlier themes while bringing the series squarely into the 1960s. A Ku Klux Klan-like figure, wearing a hood, or pointed hood, appears in the center, ”says McGarry. “Lasansky juxtaposed a 1963 article on violent confrontations for civil rights in Birmingham, Alabama, appearing to link Nazi racial crimes of the 1940s to contemporary racial violence in his adopted country in the 1960s.”

Eichmann, who appeared throughout the trial not as a bloodthirsty demon, but as quite ordinary, was hanged on June 1, 1962. His daily life remains the most frightening aspect of the Holocaust as it is echoes through successive generations: his executioners were only exceptional in their success, not their intentions or presentation.

The world has seen other Eichmanns since, he knows many of them today, “The Nazi Drawings” remind mankind – or should – to remain vigilant against them, for when they are not controlled their ability to to do evil astonishes.

“The Nazis knew my name”

The experiences of women in German death camps are further revealed in an upcoming book, “The Nazis Knew My Name”, scheduled for release on March 15, 2022.

The book tells how, in 1942, Magda Hellinger and nearly a thousand other women were sent to Auschwitz. Hellinger was tasked with hundreds of women in the infamous Experimental Block 10, working alongside Joseph Mengele. Through everyday acts of kindness and astute survival instincts, Hellinger saved hundreds of women from death while leading a double life and remaining visibly obedient in front of the Nazi guards.

Magda Hellinger wrote a short version of her experience as a prisoner and upon her death her daughter Maya Lee devoted five years to completing her mother’s story to ensure that her mother’s legacy – and the legacy of courageous Holocaust survivors in impossibly compromised positions – would live on. to.

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