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Art From Auschwitz

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In 1995 Evanston art collector Marcia Specks, her husband, Granvil, and a friend, filmmaker Bert Van Bork, traveled to Buchenwald and Auschwitz in search of what they thought would be several pictorial journals. Instead, what they found at Auschwitz was a former cell block containing hundreds of pieces of art, much of which had been surreptitiously produced and hidden at the camp by its inmates. Most of the artists had died, but the couple and Van Bork tracked down four survivors. "One of them, an 84-year-old Polish Catholic named Jan Komski, lives in Arlington, Virginia," wrote the Reader's Tori Marlan in a 1999 piece on the Speckses. "A member of the Polish resistance and a graduate of Krakow's Academy of Fine Arts, Komski arrived at Auschwitz as a political prisoner in June 1940, when the camp was still under construction." He drew maps and architectural plans for the Nazis and later, while living in a displaced-persons camp, began to depict what he had witnessed at Auschwitz. "The images are striking," Marlan continued. "A guard chooses among four naked women; a supine man chokes to death as a guard balances on a shovel laid across his neck; a naked man with a rifle pointing at the back of his head cups his mouth in anticipation of the executioner's bullet; four men, their arms twisted behind their backs, hang by their wrists from rafters as a guard looks on." The Speckses went on to produce Eyewitness: The Legacy of Death Camp Art, Van Bork's documentary on Komski and other concentration camp artists, which was nominated for an Academy Award in 1999. It'll be shown at 12:30 on Sunday, November 30, at the Evanston Public Library, 1703 Orrington in Evanston; the Speckses and their coproducer, Ulf Backstrom, will be present to talk about it (Komski died last year). Sponsored by the American Jewish Artists Club, it's free, but reservations are required. Call 847-965-7059.

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