Hitler Paintings Stir Up Controversy | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 17.12.2004
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Hitler Paintings Stir Up Controversy

An artist showing depictions of Adolf Hitler as a pop-art type figure at an exhibition near the former Dachau concentration camp has drawn the ire of the public.


Painter Gaudnek was surprised by the outrage his work provoked

Walter Gaudnek did not reckon with the fury he has caused when he opened his exhibition of Adolf Hitler paintings and drawings two weeks ago. Now, he has started taking down some of the artworks after strong negative reaction from the Jewish community and local politicians.

The artist claims his intention is being misunderstood. "We should never lose sight of Hitler. We should see him as a devilish creature who misled the public," Gaudnek said.

The paintings are for the most part larger-than-life representations of the Führer. In one, he is with his dog. In another, a blonde-haired girl listens attentively to Hitler who is flanked by Nazi guards.

Gaudnek said such artwork helps his students. "I want to show them (the students) that Hitler didn't parade with the devil. I have to explain to my students how he attracted the people," the Florida art professor said.

Central Jewish Council less understanding

But Charlotte Knobloch, vice president of the Central Jewish Council in Germany, told Munich's Abendzeitung, that there "are plenty of ways of engaging with history." She said further pictures of the "monster" are not needed.

Bruno Ganz (Adolf Hitler)

Adolf Hitler was portrayed more personally in the film "The Downfall"

Knobloch went on to voice her concern that there seems to be a dangerous trend for films and exhibitions to focus on Hitler as an individual. That includes one of the best-selling movies in Germany earlier this year, "The Downfall." It shows Hitler doing things everybody does, including eating dinner and playing with children. Knobloch said these depictions can be misinterpreted, making "the perpetrator look like the victim."

Artist unsure about exhibit's future

Gaudnek has taken down some of the artworks and originally said he would close exhibition. Now, after speaking with the honorary director of the gallery, he is not so sure. "My museum director doesn't want to stop the exhibition."

The American artist was born in Germany and is married to a Jew. He said that his wife wasn't offended by the pieces and in fact encouraged him. Gaudnek explained that it is also part of showing the evil side of Hitler. Quite possibly, evil should not be portrayed so mundanely.

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