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“Pictures put a Face to the Documents”

About 130 guests – among them mayor Jürgen van der Horst, the member of the regional parliament Reinhard Kahl, Professor Dietfrid Krause-Vilmar and Ernst Klein from the association “Gegen das Vergessen” (counteracting oblivion) – were welcomed to the opening of the exhibition “Private Tolkatchev – At the Gates of Hell“ by the International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen on 3rd September 2009. “We are pleased to present for the first time an exhibition at the ITS,” said Director Jean-Luc Blondel. “This is one further step towards opening our institution to the region.”

Having started offering guided tours for visitors, ITS is now striving to illustrate the significance of the documents kept in the ITS archive for contemporary history also by means of exhibitions, according to Blondel. “The pictures of the exhibition open peoples’ eyes to the suffering of the victims of Nazi persecution and lend to the fates narrated in the millions of files an individual human face. Apart from documenting Nazi persecution, commemorative work and transmitting knowledge of the events are essential tasks.”

The exhibition, planned and organised by the Holocaust remembrance authority Yad Vashem, shows reproductions of drawings and illustrations produced by the Russian Jewish private Zinovij Tolkatchev. Immediately after the liberation of concentration camps Majdanek and Auschwitz, the artist had given shape to his observations in emotive flash recordings. “I couldn’t tear myself away from that same piece of cursed land that was left behind, and from the terrible human abyss. My whole body was wracked with dumb sobbing,” was how Tolkatchev described his feelings of the time.

Tolkatchev’s drawings, predominantly produced in pencil, reveal his clear eye for the enslaved and worn out human beings, which ITS historian Susanne Urban emphasized when introducing into the exhibition. “Like our paper documents, they are evidence for the authentic existence of these human beings and the fact that there is someone who remembers them to be individuals and not numbers. Auschwitz can be described.“

On the occasion of the opening, three ITS employees quoted from oral memory reports produced by survivors of the concentration camps. A guided explanatory tour through the exhibition followed. The presentation of Tolkatchev’s art marks the beginning of an exhibition series at ITS in the course of which both artworks and research results will be presented regularly at least twice a year. “The exhibition lends the ITS main building a new tension,” said Urban. “It clearly places before our eyes the essence of ITS’ past, present and future mission.”

The exhibition “Private Tolkatchev – At the Gates of Hell” is on view until 19th October 2009. Admission is free. A catalogue is available for ten Euro in the ITS foyer. The exhibition is open from 8.00 am to 5.00 pm Monday to Thursday and from 8.00 am to 1.00 pm on Friday.