The comics created during the first part of the project present the stories of forgotten victims of National Socialism. They don’t try to retell any grand or well-known stories, e.g. the life of Anne Frank, but seek to shed light on biographies or events instead that have so far remained “buried” in history archives. Besides, they convey family stories that are not usually transmitted to the public. The aim of the project was to give visibility to the lives of people who were persecuted and exterminated under the National-Socialist regime.
“Forgotten Victims of National Socialism” took place in Pancevo, Serbia, and Chemnitz, Germany, in 2015. It was funded by Stiftung Erinnerung, Verantwortung und Zukunft and Kulturstiftung des Freistaates Sachsen in cooperation with Goethe-Institut Belgrade, Elektrika, and AJZ Chemnitz.
All comics were published in an anthology by Kuš! in 2015 (second revised edition 2017). They were featured in a joint exhibition at Galerie im Saalbau – Berlin (November 2015) and AJZ Chemnitz (Spring 2016).
“Book to the Head” by Max Baitinger
Max Baitinger’s comic is a narrative deconstruction of a few seconds in Victor Klemperer’s life: In Dresden, Johannes Clemens, member of the SS, hit Klemperer on the head with the book “The Myth of the 20th Century”. The symbolism of a Jewish professor being hit with nazi-ideology by a member of the SS is taken apart over the thirty pages of the comic. Baitinger follows narrative strings leading through the protagonist’s background in an effort to give depth to a blunt, but telling anecdote. Victor Klemperer (1881 – 1960) is known for his diaries about his years under National Socialism, which he spent in Dresden with his non-Jewish wife Eva.
“Tamgout, Buchenwald, Paris” by Paula Bulling
Paula Bulling’s point of departure was the search for Arabic inmates in the National Socialist concentration camps. There has been a heated debate in Germany around the collaboration of Arabic leaders, namely the Mufti of Jerusalem, with the NS regime. Bulling wanted to shed a different light on a colonial reality that was much more complex than a clear divide. During her research, she discovered the estate of Gerhard Höpp at the Center of the Modern Orient in Berlin. Among other sources, she found the account of a French survivor of the Neustrassfurt camp, recalling the death of an Algerian inmate. Bulling based her comic on the circumstances of the Algerian’s life and death.
“Bricks” by Zosia Dzierżawska
The story Zosia Dzierżawska worked on is rooted in her fascination for the history and architecture of her hometown, Warsaw. She investigated how the two fields kept influencing each other: the parallel existence of utopian modernist ideas and the actual erasing of the physical space of the city, leading the annihilation of its inhabitants. Her comic follows a number of people involved in acts of both creation and destruction: the Polish and Jewish architects of wartime Warsaw, as well as the Nazi architects who drew up the plan for a “New Warsaw”, which was meant to replace the old city.
“Encounter” by Vuk Palibrk
Vuk Palibrk’s story is based on the experience of his grandparents from the time they spent in the Johanneskirchen camp near Munich. Both of them arrived as prisoners: My grandmother was deported from Russia in 1944, as a young girl. My grandfather was arrested by the German police in occupied Serbia, and then transported onwards to Munich in 1941. It was at Johanneskirchen camp that my grandparents met each other for the first time. Palibrk’s comic covers some of the stories and anecdotes that his grandparents’ were fond of telling and passed on to their family.
“Mirjama” by Mārtiņš Zutis
Mirjama’s name appeared in a newspaper once in 1941. It was later found on the list of Holocaust victims. Mārtiņš Zutis’ comic documents a séance with a spirit in an attempt to reconstruct the life of Mirjama, a young Jewish girl in Riga during the Nazi occupation. From the persecution she faced when buying groceries at a nearby shop to her internment in the Riga ghetto, Zutis creates a detailed depiction of Mirjama’s life. The main question the artist wanted to address is the following: is this really a story from beyond or just a mere recollection of the Holocaust narrative of our collective memory?