German Jews blasted a conceptual artist Sunday for converting a former synagogue into a 'gas chamber' in a project he said targeted the "trivialization of the memory of the Holocaust."
A security guard wears a gas mask inside the synagogue
The work by Spanish artist Santiago Sierra is called "245 Cubic Meters" and consists of a former Jewish synagogue in the western town of Pulhein near Cologne. Sierra hooked up the exhaust pipes of six cars to tubes that pump poisonous gas inside.
The synagogue was used by the Nazis as a stable but survived World War II unscathed. It has been used as a community center since 1991.
Visitors on Sunday lined up to enter the building for a few minutes accompanied by a firefighter and wearing protective masks to shield them from the deadly concentration of carbon monoxide inside.
Sierra, who was not present for the opening, said in a written statement that the shocking project was aimed to stop complacency in the face of the Nazis' mass extermination of the Jews in death camp gas chambers.
He plans to stage it every Sunday through April 30, with a break for Easter on April 16.
Germa n Jews say work is offe n sive
The general secretary of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Stephan J. Kramer, said the work was deeply offensive and asked why the project appeared to target Holocaust victims and not the perpetrators of the Nazi crimes.
The artist wants to keep the memory of Jews killed by the Nazi alive
However, the mayor of Pulheim, Karl August Morisse, said he could not imagine "that someone would feel offended because the meaning of the work is so apparent."
He invited those critical of the project to a debate, saying that "indifference to the monstrous mass murder of the Jews was the worst that could happen."
Artist k n ow n for provocative work
Sierra, who was born in Madrid and now lives in Mexico City, is known for provocative works attacking racism and exploitation.
He has tattooed young jobless people's backs to brand them with a stigma, dyed the hair of black Africans blond to make them appear "European" and walled off the Spanish pavilion at the Biennale art show in Venice so that only those who could show a Spanish passport could enter.