Yesterday began Holocaust Remembrance Day or Yom HaShoah, and it will last until tonight. So I thought it was important for me to recognize a very talented and heroic artist.
Not only was Jan Komski an amazing artist, he was also a Holocaust survivor.
This week’s art question is, why was so much attention given to all the art stolen during the Holocaust but yet, very little attention given to heroes like Jan who not only survived, but shared his horrific, life-altering experiences via art.
According to A People’s History of the Holocaust and Genocide, Jan was one of the first prisoners taken to Auschwitz. After surviving there for two and a half years, he was apart of one of the most famous escapes from Auschwitz.
I had no idea that there was an ‘underground railroad’ of sorts for escapees. Despite the efforts of the Resistance, he was ultimately caught and ended up back at Auschwitz.
Having survived hell on Earth twice, Jan went on to create some heartbreaking art work that portrayed life at Auschwitz. This painting called “Appell” (Translated into Roll Call) is one of his pieces.
It is clear this piece tells a story, a horrific, traumatic story. One which Jan not only lived twice, but survived twice.
He married another Auschwitz survivor and moved to the United States in 1949. At this point, he became a graphic artist with The Washington Post.
According to Seventh Art Releasing, he was also featured in an award winning documentary called Eyewitness. Jan ultimately passed in 2002 in Arlington County Virginia at the age of 87.
At a time when the world should have learned from the travesty and hate inflicted on the Jewish people, we still have widespread hate against people for unfathomable reasons. Gun control is still being discussed as there are hate-filled shootings on a daily basis.
Illegal immigrants are being detained in unlivable conditions for long periods of time. How have we not learned from our past?
How are we blessed with the presence of heroes such as Jan, yet we continue to judge and hate? As Anne Frank said, “in spite of everything I still believe that people are good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hope on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death.
I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the never approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquillity will return again.”
I’m trying with all my might to believe her wise words.