I stayed up pretty late last night making a collage. My collage is inspired by Banksy’s art which depicts prisoners of war who were placed in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp during WWII. This Nazi death camp was located in Bergen, Lower Saxony, Germany. It was estimated that over 50,000 people died here between 1943 and 1945. 

(click to enlarge)
Banksy pink car, Brick Lane, London, British POW

In Banksy’s latest book, Wall & Piece, I read an excerpt from the diary of Lieutenant Colonel Mervin Willett Gonin DSO who was among the first British soldiers to liberate Bergen-Belsen in April 1945. This diary is archived at the Imperial War Museum in London, England.

I can give no adequate description of the Horror Camp in which my men and myself were to spend the next month of our lives. It was just a barren wilderness, as bare as a chicken run. Corpses lay everywhere, some in huge piles, sometimes they lay singly or in pairs where they had fallen.

It took a little time to get used to seeing men women and children collapse as you walked by them and to restrain oneself from going to their assistance. One had to get used early to the idea that the individual just did not count. One knew that five hundred a day were dying and that five hundred a day were going on dying for weeks before anything we could do would have the slightest effect. It was, however, not easy to watch a child choking to death from diptheria when you knew a tracheotomy and nursing would save it, one saw women drowning in their own vomit because they were too weak to turn over, and men eating worms as they clutched a half loaf of bread purely because they had to eat worms to live and now could scarcely tell the difference.

Piles of corpses, naked and obscene, with a woman too weak to stand proping herself against them as she cooked the food we had given her over an open fire; men and women crouching down just anywhere in the open relieving themselves of the dysentary which was scouring their bowels, a woman standing stark naked washing herself with some issue soap in water from a tank in which the remains of a child floated.

It was shortly after the British Red Cross arrived, though it may have no connection, that a very large quantity of lipstick arrived. This was not at all what we men wanted, we were screaming for hundreds and thousands of other things and I don’t know who asked for lipstick. I wish so much that I could discover who did it, it was the action of genius, sheer unadulterated brilliance. I believe nothing did more for these internees than the lipstick. Women lay in bed with no sheets and no nightie but with scarlet red lips, you saw them wandering about with nothing but a blanket over their shoulders, but with scarlet red lips. I saw a woman dead on the postmortem table and clutched in her hand was a piece of lipstick. At last someone had done something to make them individuals again, they were someone, no longer merely the number tattooed on the arm. At last they could take an interest in their appearance. That lipstick started to give them back their humanity.

Banksy Prisoners of War

Since the start of this piece, I was toying with the idea of adding faces to my graffitied wall, and after I read the above story, I knew I had to use the prisoners. My collage is made from several computer print outs which were glued to canvas paper using Acrylic Gloss Medium. After gluing the images, I painted over the entire collage with gloss again. This medium is clear and flexible when it dries. I’ve determined that I can stitch right through my collage, and I plan to imbed it within the beadwork. And today, I plan to add even more faces. I want my wall to represent the horror that war has brought to mankind throughout history. It seems that even with all the education in the world, we cannot prevent history from repeating itself. 

Soon, we will all be prisoners of war…


20 thoughts on “>POW

  1. >Hello Diana,I read what you wrote about the death camp of Bergen-Belsen and find you very courageous to deal with this topic.My great-grandfather, a Latvian Jew, was shot on “Bloody Sunday”, November 30, 1941,by the Nazis in Rumbala, a wood near Riga/Latvia. All of the men in the Riga Ghetto were shot or deported to Auschwitz Death Camp.I will write about it (with photos) on my blog on November 30, to remind people of this atrocity.Please come and visit to comment.http://olivia-kroth.blog.de.vuemail: O.Kroth@t-online.de

  2. >Thank you for all of the replies on this post. At first I thought I was crazy for even thinking about even incorporating these images, and I thought that I would be criticized, but then I remembered that true art is about taking risks. So, there it is… Nick, your last sentence was what I had been thinking all along… I appreciate your comments immensely. Crymson, I’m glad I inspired you to think about something that you might not have otherwise today:)And, Jafabrit, my goal is to continue taking my beadwork to new levels in perhaps an unexpected way. So far, I figure I’m about halfway through this piece. I would like it to someday be published as well as be shown in a contemporary art gallery or museum… We’ll see. One bead at a time…

  3. >Unfortunately, I am much too familiar with Bergen-Belsen and the other Nazi concentration and death camps. Just as you at the moment seem griped by Banksy’s art, for close to fifty years I’ve studied the Nazi Third Reich and all its horrors. As I reported in a my blog a few years ago when I gained the insight, my preconscious drive to understand the horrors of Nazi Germany most probably came from the German Jewish ancestry I inherited from my mother’s mother, whose family evidently concealed their secular Jewishness since back in the 19th Century.I find the focus that Banksy has given to the atrociousness of Nazi Germany quite enlightening and important. Likewise, I concur with your decision (?) to have your wall represent the horrors of that war is also significant. Twenty or so years ago I had a discussion with a man named Elie Wiesel, who dedicated his life to the proposition that we must never forget the Holocaust. Works such as Banksy’s and now yours are important so that we never do forget it and that we do all we can to prevent it happening again, even though in places such as Bosnia and Rwanda it has.No… we will not all soon be prisoners of war; wherever and whenever the mythological god Ares rules, we are already prisoners of War.

  4. >I more than like it, it is a touching piece that makes a statement and done so in a very unique way. I really think you have taken your beading to a new level.So are you selling this piece?

  5. >I’m touched by the story and how you’re incorporating these images into your work. After I read your post I spent quite a while clicking away on Wikipedia learning about Bergen-Belesen. This piece has now entered a whole nother level of thought provoking art.

  6. >Jafabrit, thanks! I thought you might like this one… :)Phoenix, yes, I did read that Anne Frank died there… :(And, thanks for the comment Mary. You’re right. This one will be unlike any of my other pieces when I am finished. That’s for sure… :0

  7. >diana…if you believe that education is no help against war/genocide, then I wonder why you’re adding these images to your work? I’m not asking this in a challenging way, however I am curious about your road here?I’ve seen the images of the holocaust in Germany, of the genocide in Cambodia by the Khmer Rouge, of the genocide of the people of Rwanda and Bosnia and Afganistan….the list just goes on and on and includes Native Americans and Black Americans in our own country.Again…I don’t believe there is a right or wrong way of dealing with this aspect of humanity, just wondering what led you to this piece?

  8. >Ce sont des images terribles que tu nous montres. Les génocides sont typiquement humain, et les humains n’ont toujours rien compris! Je suis peut-être pessimiste, mais je crois que l’homme ne changera jamais !L’humain est un éternel prisonnier de ses idées, de ses religions, de sa solitude, de sont mal être, et des questions qu’il se pose ou qu’il ne se pose pas.Intégrer de telles images dans ta broderie, il faillait l’oser !Chapeau!Bisous.

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