Forbidden Art shares works created by concentration camp prisoners

January 19, 2016

LIVONIA, Mich. – Madonna University is host to two powerful and poignant Holocaust art exhibitions through February 26, 2016. Forbidden Art, on display in Madonna’s Franciscan Center, is a collection of artwork created by prisoners of Auschwitz and other concentration camps. These works are pieces of history and include candid sketches, abstract representations and unique sculptures.

The Komski/Chumiecki exhibit, in Madonna’s Exhibition Gallery, features watercolor paintings and drawings by Jan Komski, a Polish prisoner who survived Auschwitz, and photography of Auschwitz today by Marcin Chumiecki, director of The Polish Mission in Orchard Lake, Mich.

Komski studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow when the city was occupied by German forces. He was arrested in 1940 and sent to Auschwitz, from which he made a daring escape. He was re-arrested and sent to several other camps including Dachau, where he was liberated in 1945.

Chumiecki’s haunting, atmospheric photographs of Auschwitz today resulted from his multiple engagements there to work with the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum.

Chris Seguin, chair of Madonna’s Art Department led efforts to bring the exhibits to the University. “The artwork in these concurrent exhibitions conveys and preserves human memories of the Holocaust through the visual language of art,” she said. “While disturbing us with its difficult contexts, the work speaks of the power of creativity and endurance of the human spirit.”

Reinforcing Seguin’s description of the power of art, Deepinder Singh Uppal, assistant professor in the Religious Studies Department, and co-director of the Center for Catholic Studies and Interfaith Dialogue at Madonna added, “In the midst of profound loss, art became a means for prisoners to express their defiance and preserve something the Nazis could never take: their dignity.”

Sr. Nancy Marie Jamroz, also a co-director of the Center for Catholic Studies and Interfaith Dialogue, shared how the exhibits reflect the University’s mission. “Our mission receives its spirit from Franciscan values, two of which are respect for the dignity of each person and education for truth and service,” she said. “Realizing that these are actual works of people who lived in horror and unimaginable degradation and who still found a way to use their creative gifts as self-expression, or to document their unbelievable existence, makes a lasting impression as I view the work and read the commentaries.”

These exhibitions are hosted by the Madonna University Art Department in collaboration with the Center for Catholic Studies and Interfaith Dialogue, and the Diversity and Inclusion Committee. Forbidden Art is presented in North America by The Polish Mission of the Orchard Lake Schools in exclusive partnership with the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum.

Additional information and updates are available at

In coordination with the exhibits, the University offers the following events:

  • A discussion on Ideas of Justice with Paul Radzilowski, associate professor of history, and Deepinder Singh Uppal, Tuesday, Jan. 26.
  • A semester-long colloquium facilitated by professors in criminal justice, philosophy, sociology and more, scheduled from 6-7:30 p.m., Thursdays, Feb. 4, Feb. 25, March 24 and April 7.
  • Students will share their reflections on the exhibit and the Holocaust through a writing event hosted by the Madonna Writing Center
  • A collection of books related to the Holocaust will be on display in the library

About Madonna University: Liberal arts education, career preparation and service-learning have been the hallmarks of Madonna University since 1937.

Conveniently located at I-96 and Levan Road in Livonia, Madonna offers more than 100 undergraduate and 30 graduate programs in the colleges of arts and humanities, science and mathematics, social sciences, education, and nursing and health, as well as the School of Business and the Graduate School.

Michigan’s most affordable, independent, Catholic university, Madonna welcomes students from diverse backgrounds. Learn more at

About the Polish Mission: The purpose of The Polish Mission of the Orchard Lake Schools, which were founded in 1885 by Polish immigrants, is to preserve and promote Polish and Polish-American culture, tradition, and history for present and future generations.

The Polish Mission organizes programs, courses and events that highlight Polish and Polish-American culture and accomplishments, and ensures a repository for artifacts, archival materials, works of art, and publications. For more information, please visit

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