Majdanek: A Descendent's Retrospective
In June 1943, my grandfather Maciej Stelmach, his siblings and his parents, were arrested by the Nazis in Łuków, Poland during the Zamość Uprising. They were transported to Majdanek, one of the six extermination camps in Nazi-occupied Poland. During his time in Majdanek, my grandfather witnessed unbearable atrocities and was subject to constant torture. Upon his release from Majdanek, he continued to fight in the Polish II corps under the command of General Władysław Anders. In fear of further prosecution by the Soviets after the war, my grandfather immigrated to the United States to start a new life.
In this body of work, I strive to illustrate the horrors of Majdanek through the experiences of a non-Jewish Holocaust survivor. Each piece is based on a line from testimony written by my grandfather. The pieces were carved from wood in a manner to suggest that they could have been secretively created within the camp itself. The fabric the works are printed on also emulates the uniforms worn by camp inmates. We now live in a time where Holocaust survivors are dwindling in number and acts of hatred across the world are becoming more commonplace. It is for this reason why learning from and preserving the experiences of those who bore witness to the Holocaust is important. Remembrance and reflection are the only ways we can prevent history from repeating itself.
On April 17th 2016, I had the honor of being the featured artist at Elmhurst College's 25th Annual Holocaust Memorial and Lecture. This annual event is held by the college's Holocaust Education Project to honor the victim and survivors of the Holocaust as well as to reflect upon the influence it has on our society today. Majdanek: A Descendant's Retrospective was on display for the night during the service of remembrance and Rabbi Steven Bob's lecture.