Auschwitz's forbidden art

Story highlights

  • Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum has works of art created in concentration camps
  • Prisoners would create art in secret and hide it
  • Through these works, we can see the truth about Auschwitz, historian says

(CNN)The Nazis did all they could to make their Jewish captives faceless, dressing them in uniforms and tattooing them with numbers that would become their new identities.

In the midst of that horror -- indeed, in perhaps the most horrific place a Jew could land at the time -- prisoners sought to take their images back and made sure that art was still present.
    Franciszek Jaźwiecki, a Polish artist and political prisoner at Auschwitz, made portraits of fellow prisoners. Though the portraits portrayed prisoners of various nationalities and ages, they shared the same haunting quality, according to Agnieszka Sieradzka, an art historian at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum.
    "The most interesting in these portraits are eyes -- a very strange helplessness," she says. "Prisoners created portraits because the desire to have an image was very strong."