Ivan Köhler

Residence of Death – Jude’s Fate

Ivan Köhler, artist, art photographer from Žilina exhibited in the Tatranská gallery several times. One of the more serious offers from the gallery to the author was to prepare an unconventional exhibition on the topic of the Holocaust and the anniversary of the transport of Jewish women and girls from Poprad to Auschwitz on March 25, 1942. We have been commemorating this serious and sad event in the Tatra Gallery next to the railway station for more than 23 years under the management of SNM – Museum of Jewish Culture in Bratislava.

How to portray this theme? Intriguing, but not provoking. To be open, at the same time compassionate. Accessible to both adults and the younger generation.
After studying a lot of materials, Ivan Köhler dared to visit the concentration camp in Auschwitz and began to process this topic responsibly.
As he himself says: “Expressing my position on the Holocaust, even directly on the transport of Jews from Poprad to Auschwitz, was one of the most difficult tasks in my Kumštyr activity. In addition, it is colored by the fact that the next day after Poprad, the transport left from my beloved Žilina. And it’s been 80 years. Anniversary. Anniversary of what? Crazy,” he confesses.

Recalling his early student days, he claims that atrocities committed against Jews were still taboo in the school curriculum for a long time. “Before I started creating, I had to study a lot of materials, because nobody ever informed us about it at school. I was born in Hitler’s Slovak state, shortly before the end of the 2nd World War, and this topic was not opened until many years later. Even so, I am amazed that some people are still able to question the Holocaust today. All the horrors, refined brutalities and sadism I have read about in the books published so far are true – there is no dispute about that. This exhibition is something I did with shaky knees,” he admits. To be more authentic, he went directly to the concentration camp. “Having permission to photograph in depositories gave me a lot of work. The amount of glasses, teeth, hair, clothes and even toys and dolls put me in front of unsolvable statements. You can see the result at the exhibition in Poprad and Žilina.”

Köhler took the subject brilliantly in his own way. He inserted suggestive photos in hints into graphic images. You feel like you’re looking at a colorful, graphically perfect image, and suddenly terrifying details come to the fore. “I don’t want to and I can’t express myself historically. The task I set for myself when putting together the exhibition from various sections in Auschwitz was to capture the unique elements of the moral strength of a person in distress and danger,” he explains.

A Slovak woman of Jewish origin was one of the first to be taken to Auschwitz in March 1942. In the death camp, SS member Franz Wunsch fell in love with her when she tearfully sang him a German song at his birthday party. This love saved her life. She became his protégé and later he spared her sister from the gas chambers as well. Both finally lived to the end of the war. Helena died three years ago. “Jewish women were beautiful women and the SS noticed it. In the case of this girl, I touched on the monstrous, indescribable things that happened in the women’s camp,” added Ivan Kelly Köhler.
The exhibition consists of 20 works, symbolizing the return of only 20 women from the entire first transport, which left Poprad on March 25, 1942 at 8:00 p.m. and 20:00 p.m.

Anna Ondrušeková

As part of the project, we are planning the following exhibition activities :

  • The exhibition of the partner institution Oslo Holocaust Museum – the exhibition of renowned Norwegian artist Victor Lind on the theme of the Holocaust
  • The extensive exhibition project “City and Space Remember” addressing contemporary artists on the theme of the Holocaust, fates of women, families, cities, etc.
  • The photography exhibition on the theme of fight against extremism, xenophobia and racial hatred (prof. Ľubomír Stacho)
  • The student works exhibition on the theme of the Holocaust
  • The exhibition of the works of art created at the international art symposium