Greetings from Auschwitz is a book based on an unusual collection put together over several years by Polish artist and curator Paweł Szypulski. It shows postcards sent by tourists who visited the former Nazi death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. The oldest postcard dates from 1947 – only two years after the liberation of the camp.
Nearly all the postcards reproduced in Greetings from Auschwitz were once in circulation, written and sent to families, friends and acquaintances. On one of them a man wrote “greetings from Auschwitz” and in the post scriptum he added: “Everything is fine, all I miss is you and the sun.” The front of the postcard shows a panoramic view of the death camp, including the crematorium chimney and the entrance gate.
Another card reads: “Shipment of warm greetings from Auschwitz with the rustle of the summer wind, from your sister Cześka.” The image shows Block 11, the so-called “death block”. These sorts of postcards are still being sold to tourists in Auschwitz.
One of the central themes of Holocaust-related art is silence. And the question of what is appropriate is always a crucial one. The postcards collected by Paweł Szypulski propose a radically different – chatty and inappropriate – narrative. His book discusses a social memory of the Holocaust, which is entirely different from the memory that is present in high art and scientific discourse. Greetings from Auschwitz is a thought-provoking visual essay about failure of both language and image in dealing with a social trauma caused by one of the biggest catastrophes in the human history. (Paweł Szypulski)