Israeli student admits to stealing Auschwitz items for art project

The infamous gate of Auschwitz-Birkenau PHOTO: FACEBOOK/CAROLINE GODIN
The infamous gate of Auschwitz-Birkenau PHOTO: FACEBOOK/CAROLINE GODIN

JERUSALEM - An Israeli art student faces possible charges pressed against her by the Auschwitz museum, even as she admitted to stealing material from the Holocaust memorial in Poland for her graduation project.

Rotem Bides, 27, a granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, had removed objects from Auschwitz on six separate occasions - including a sign warning visitors not to take anything - eventually using them in a Beit Berl college exhibition, in Israel, the Guardian reported on Wednesday (July 19).

Her project has since been removed by the faculty.

In a report by the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, Bides, defending her actions, said she took the material for her project - said to also include her own blood - to show that laws can be transgressed.

"I felt it was something I had to do. Millions of people were murdered based on the moral laws of a certain country, under a certain regime. And if these are the laws, I can go there and act according to my own laws. The statement I'm making here is that laws are determined by humans, and that morality is something that changes from time to time and from culture to culture."

"These are the things I want to deal with. I am a third generation to the Holocaust, but I'm not saying I'm allowed to do it because my grandfather was in Auschwitz. I'm simply asking the questions. I'm concerned that after all the survivors are gone, the Holocaust will turn into a myth, something that cannot be perceived," she added.

Her academic supervisior, Israel's prize-winning artist Michal Na'aman, said he thought she "(succeeded) in creating a unique encounter between art and an event that has passed", adding that he "didn't think there was anything wrong with it".

Condemning Bides' actions as "painful and outrageous", the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial has demanded Israel see to the objects' safe return.

"It's hard to imagine theft being justified in any way, even through art, which can be seen as an attempt to gain publicity," the Guardian cited the museum as saying.