Lifestyle & Belief

Swedish artist under investigation for 'stealing Holocaust ashes'


The memorial housing the ashes of victims at the Majdanek Nazi death camp in eastern Poland. A Swedish artist claims he took some of the ashes and used them in his work, prompting an investigation by Polish police.



A Swedish artist may face charges after he claimed to have stolen the ashes of Holocaust victims for use in one of his paintings.

Carl Michael von Hausswolff says he collected ashes from the crematorium at Majdanek, a former Nazi German death camp in eastern Poland, during a visit in 1989, Agence France-Presse reported.

He claims he then mixed them with water and used them to paint an abstract piece entitled 'Memory Works,' described as a representation of victims' suffering during the Holocaust.

Now Polish prosecutors say that they have opened an investigation. They are considering charging von Hausswolff with desecration of the dead or theft of human remains, a spokeswoman told AFP.

If convicted, the artist could face up to eight years in jail.

His controversial work went on display at a gallery in the southern Swedish city of Lund last month, but was taken down after public outcry and a complaint to the police, Swedish news site The Local reported.

The US-based Simon Wiesenthal Center branded the painting an "abomination," comparing von Hausswolff to Nazis who used human skin to make lampshades.

Authorities in Sweden declined to pursue charges since the ashes were supposedly stolen outside the country. Polish prosecutors said they have not yet gathered any evidence of a crime, according to the Times of Israel; so far, von Hausswolff's own account is the only thing that links him to Majdanek.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center is calling for his painting to be returned to the camp and buried alongside the remains of the estimated 80,000 people who died there.