Appeal, 21Kb


Author, 3Kb I invite all the prisoners of the nazi
concentracion camps World War II and
their descendants to raise their voices
to stop the bombing of Yugoslavia,
and against the new fashism...

Vida Jocic
Auschwitz and Ravensbrueck
prisoner No. 49865, 1942/45

The artist Vida Jocic is the author of the exhibition An Appeal for Peace at the Centre for Cultural Decontamination

To our suffering and scattered ashes

By M. Marjanovic

"My sculptures are the synthesis of the Slavic, Jewish and Romany camp inmate. There are still 25 tons of women's hair in Auschwitz today. With the palms of my hands, qute unaware, I have formed the face of the Polish woman."

At The Centre for Cultural Decontamination, in Belgrade, was opened the Appeal for Peace exibition by Vida Jocic, who was from 1942 until 1945 the prisoner of the Belgrade camp Banjica and concentration camps Auschwitz and Ravensbruck. Vida Jocic had exhibited everywhere, from Belgrade to Paris. She was awarded all the major prizes for sculpture, and her works are presented in all the world collections... This is her story.

You have written: "If there was ever hell on Earth, it was Auschwitz..."

Even today, when one utters letters of that word which symbolize the horrors of war, it is as if these letters transform into daggers. Today, there are still 25 tons of women's hair in Auschwitz... We dug canals at Auschwitz... A Polish woman from Warsaw was one of us. She was caught in a raid, when she was buying bread for her children, who she had left locked in. Suffering terrible grief for her children, her mental state was shattered. Lonely, sick, half-insane, we Serbian and Yugoslav women accepted her as one of us. I used to force her to eat that meagre slime we were given. She was silently going with us ewerywhere. The fate of that Polish woman had guided your life toward art. How did that happen?

One morning a young German, in shining boots, rushed down the canal side and begun to beat her, repeating that she was a pig and should wash herself. She started to grasp mud with her hands and rub it over her body. Not satisfied, the German pushed her and stepped on her head. So he drowned her - and then kicked her. Then he came over to me and ordered me to laugh. I could not. He was probably irritated by the horror he recognised on my face. Horror from pain, bewilderment and helplessness. I was holding on to my shovel, stuck into the slime, so as not to fall down... I was looking at the woman's face - it radiated nobleness and beauty, like Christ on the cross. It reminded me of our frescoes. I clutched the canal side and felt in my hands something I could squeeze. It was clay. Trembling, I held it tightly in my palm, without knowing what I was doing. As if I wanted to bring her back to life, to capture the Polish woman's expression...

Who pointed out to you that you have formed the woman's face on the palm of your hand?

I climbed out of the canal and looked for my friend Staka Diklic. I shared food bowl with her. She got in line before, and having drunk her half was waiting for me, staring at the bowl. Suddenly she raised her eyes at me, sighing: "Look, it is t he Pole. Vida, you are a sculptor. If you stay alive, do not forget this and sculpt it."

After the war ended you did not become a sculptor right away?

No, I did not. My hands were in wounds. It took a long time to heal them. I had to cure eczema. As I used to recite poetry, everyone was telling me to become an actress, so I became one. I finished the film school, acting department. After I had cured my hands I went to study sculpture.

How old were you when you were deported to camp?

I was twenty one. Since 1942, untill July 1943, I as at the Banjica camp. Then we were transported to Auschwitz. The number 49865 on my arm was tattooed in July 1943.

Your first exhibition, held way back in 1958, was also an appeal for peace to the world. Whose faces are now on the exhibited sculptures?

They were always the camp inmates' faces, but as a symbol. They are the synthesis of the three faces: Slavic, Jewish and Romany. They are alike, because we were all the same - equal - in the camp.

What is your message with this exhibition?

I address all the surviving inmates, their friends and offspring to raise their voices against this crime: bombing of the Yugoslavia, and the new fascism... I dedicate this exhibition to our suffering and the ashes scattered throughout all the camps in World War Two.

Own experience of the drama of collective death has guaranteed the authenticity and sincerity of an individual creative act ever since art came into existence as a human experience. This huge theme - perhaps the greatest in the history of human civilization- had artists who related to it directly, creating works that formed the corpus of the most valuable, most important and artistic masterpieces - milestones in the history of art. Most certainly, one of these is Pablo Picasso's Guernica. And in terms of its characteristics, the monumental composition of sculptures Appeal for Peace by Vida Jocic has its place in the same lineage.

Its basis is the universal semantics of the Holocaust (for each individual, community, nation - always and everywhere). Its creative background is the number 49865 tattooed on the artist’s hand in Auschwitz in 1943. Its aesthetics is the dramatic expression of the individual form, multiplied into many. As has already been written, it is the Cathedral of Pain which acts through destructive torment, an echo of terrible silence, seting in motion in one place a whole whirlpool of emotions in space and time…

The first ‘Appeal’ by Vida Jocic, although created in 1958, actually symbolizes the evident state of literal destruction as the dominant ideological category of the ongoing fin de siècle. Reflected through the actual contrasts of the age, the need for construction is transformed into an impulse of destruction, optimism is replaced by fear of an extremely dangerous future augured at the very beginning of the new century. For the next thousand years of the third millennium, from this cataclysmic perspective of ours, seem to prophesy a period whose end will be impossible to envisage. And is this not, finally, the aim of the warning - the appeal by Vida Jocic which travels through time and remains eternal with unchanged meanings and messages of great importance.

Belgrade, April 1999
Jovan Despotovic

Center for Cultural Denotamiantion