Praying Hitler Rattles Former Warsaw Ghetto

Statue by Maurizio Cattelan not embraced by all

By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 28, 2012 2:15 PM CST

(Newser) – No chance of this one not being controversial: A statue of Adolf Hitler praying on his knees has been installed in the former Warsaw Ghetto, reports the AP. Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan's work can only be viewed from afar, by peering through a hole in a wooden gate. What, exactly, Hitler—visible only from the back and appearing as a child—is praying for isn't made clear, but what is clear is that many aren't pleased. The Simon Wiesenthal Center this week called displaying the statue in a place where the Nazis forced many Jews to live in cramped, inhuman conditions before being sent to death camps "a senseless provocation. ... As far as the Jews were concerned, Hitler's only 'prayer' was that they be wiped off the face of the earth."

But the director of the art center behind the installation counters that the intention was not to insult, but to try "to speak about the situation of hidden evil everywhere." And he has Poland's head rabbi on his side. Michael Schudrich was consulted about the statue and says he didn't oppose it because he saw value in the moral questions it raises. Evil can present itself in the guise of a "sweet praying child," he says, and the statue can "force us to face the evil of the world."

A statue by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan of Adolf Hitler praying on his knees in Warsaw, Poland.
A statue by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan of Adolf Hitler praying on his knees in Warsaw, Poland.   (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)
The work HIM has been drawing visitors since it was installed last month, and even some anger.
The work "HIM" has been drawing visitors since it was installed last month, and even some anger.   (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)
One Jewish group, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, this week condemned the work’s placement in the former ghetto as a senseless provocation which insults the memory of the Nazis' Jewish victims.
One Jewish group, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, this week condemned the work’s placement in the former ghetto as "a senseless provocation which insults the memory of the Nazis' Jewish victims."   (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)
People look through at a  statue by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan showing Adolf Hitler.
People look through at a statue by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan showing Adolf Hitler.   (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)
People look at a statue by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan showing Adolf Hitler praying on his knees.
People look at a statue by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan showing Adolf Hitler praying on his knees.   (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)
Others are praising it, saying it has a strong emotional force that has them reflecting on the nature of human evil.
Others are praising it, saying it has a strong emotional force that has them reflecting on the nature of human evil.   (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)
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