If cliché leads us to believe that art is made out of suffering, there are few circumstances in which the language of art could be more direct, more profound, or more moving than art made in the European concentration camps of World War II.
While Auschwitz itself has come to represent the evil that is often considered a paradigm and example of modern barbarity, art and culture played significant roles there. In the extreme and physically threatening circumstances that would seem to thwart creativity, art functioned as a survival strategy, catharsis, documentation, and, at times, a means of psychological escape.
Auschwitz functions as a symbolic and historical focus for this exhibition and catalog. It serves as a thematic focal point and a common thread that touched so many victims of various nationalities and disparate backgrounds. While the exhibition presents art that was created at Auschwitz, as well as art produced at other sites, including Theresienstadt, Buchenwald, Gurs, and the Lódz Ghetto, all of the artists in The Last Expression: Art and Auschwitz were ultimately victims at Auschwitz.
The catalog includes reproductions of some 300 artworks; each tells a piece of an incredible history. Each remnant of these personal journeys and individual travails contributes to our understanding of the victims of the Holocaust, their experiences, the nature and function of the camps, the strategies of the perpetrators, as well as the will and need to create art.