Illustrated KZ Mail Part 2
There were numerous artists incarcerated at Auschwitz, and through various means many of them were allowed to pursue their art. The most easily understood arrangement involved painting or decorating at the command of the SS, usually for the camp art museum. 5killed prisoners such as these were usually held in higher regard by the SS, at least temporarily. As a result they were sometimes allowed to paint or draw on their own, provided the subject matter did not violate regulations.
Other artistic prisoners drew in secret, showing their work to no one out of fear of almost certain retribution. Penalties included beatings and the suspension of mail privileges for months at a time. For many the motivation was simply to forget their surroundings and for the moment lose themselves in painting.
Another survivor was prisoner Mieczyslaw Koscielniak (Figure 2), first introduced in Part 1 of this article. Born in Kalisch, Koscielniak was already a skilled artist specializing in the illustration of classic literature when he was arrested and sent to Auschwitz in early 1941. At great risk to his own life he smuggled a large number of drawings depicting life in Auschwitz out of the camp in a load of dirty laundry. These drawings are now on display at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, of which Koscielniak was one of the principal founders.
The lettersheet written by Koscielniak shown in Figure 3 has a wonderful block print on the front, presumably carved from wood or linoleum. The illustration is titled at the bottom: ”’Dorotka’ Turm in Kalisch,” and depicts the image of a famous medieval tower. It is interesting to speculate that separate mail objects from Koscielniak or other prisoners might show the same image, since the block could be used repeatedly. Koscielniak developed contacts with many notable international dignitaries after the war, and continued creating art until his death in 1993.
Click on image to see enlargement/slide show
www.exil-archiv.de www.mieczyslawkoscielniak.com www.polskieszlaki.pl
Erik Lordahl, German Concentration Camps, 1933-1945, History and Inmate Mail, War and Philabooks Ltd., Tarnasen, Norway, 2006 .•
J. Scott Sawyer, PhD, The Israel Philatelist, April 2010