In this Friday, Jan. 19, 2018 photo two Belrusian men, Adam Bialiatski, left and Mikita Valadzko, right, speak to The Associated Press in Warsaw, Poland. A Polish court has sentenced the two to prison for organizing a 2017 stunt in which they and other young adults stripped naked at Auschwitz and chained themselves together to the ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ gate as one man slaughtered a sheep. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski, file)

2 men get prison for slain sheep ‘performance’ at Auschwitz

The men said their act was an ‘artistic performance’ to protest the wars in Ukraine and Syria

On a cold day in March 2017, a group of young adults stripped naked at the former Auschwitz death camp and chained themselves together to the “Arbeit Macht Frei” gate as one man plunged a knife into a sheep’s body over and over again.

The two organizers of the stunt, including the man who killed the sheep, described their act as an “artistic performance” to protest the wars in Ukraine and Syria. But Polish judges have taken a different view, seeing animal cruelty and the desecration of a memorial site where Nazi German forces killed some 1.1 million people.

The District Court in Krakow confirmed on Tuesday that the man who killed the sheep, Adam Bialiatski, was sentenced a week ago to a year in prison, while a second man, Mikita Valadzko, was given eight months. Nine other participants were ordered to pay fines. The May 21 ruling came after the two appealed earlier convictions, and is final.

Bialiatski is the son of human rights activist, Ales Bialiatski, who has been jailed for promoting democracy in autocratic Belarus. He has refused to comment on his son’s case, while the son has avoided questions about how his father felt about his provocative brand of activism.

“Our Ukrainian brothers and sisters are still dying,” Bialiatski told The Associated Press in an interview last year. “We thought if we do this performance art in a place like Auschwitz, we will attract attention to the war.”

During their performance, they unfurled a banner that said “Love” at the gate with the notorious Nazi inscription “Arbeit Macht Frei” (Work Sets You Free.) A group of men and women — six Poles, four Belarusians and one German — were chained together in the freezing cold and chanted a prayer: “I love all people, I love our planet, I have no enemies!”

When the men were convicted in 2018, Judge Bozena Holecka said an autopsy of the sheep revealed it was stabbed 15 times and that no creature, human or animal, should ever lose its life in such a place.

“How can you protest violence by using violence?” she asked the defendants.

Nazi German forces killed an estimated 1.1 million people, the majority of them Jews, at the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex during their occupation of Poland during World War II.

Auschwitz and other former Nazi death camps today have an iconic status that artists have used to make philosophical points — or simply to shock.

A Spanish performance artist, Santiago Sierra, in 2006 turned a synagogue into a gas chamber in Germany, saying he wanted to give people a sense of the Holocaust, but angering Jewish representatives.

A Polish artist, Zbigniew Libera, used LEGO pieces in 1996 to build a toy concentration camp, also sparking outrage, although today his works are show in museums across the world. Another Polish artist, Artur Zmijewski, created a video installation in 1999 showing naked men and women playing a game of tag in one of the gas chambers of the former Stuffhof death camp.

Piotr Cywinski, director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau state museum, said following the slain sheep protest that the site “is not a theatre stage or a concert hall. It’s not a space where you can do anything you want.”

ALSO READ: Two dead after plane crashes into forest near Whitehorse airport

ALSO READ: No charges laid in reported sexual assault at Canadian Forces Base on Vancouver Island

Vanessa Gera, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Tofino mayor cheers provincial government’s plastics survey

Mayors of Tofino, Victoria, Squamish and Rossland collaborate on letter.

Youth lead Ucluelet Cemetery nameplate project

Students navigate maps and scour local archives over three years to honour deceased.

Tofino awards $2.4M contract to connect path to Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

The district announced the project will be paid entirely with grants.

Semi-truck crashes on Hwy. 4 between Port Alberni and Tofino-Ucluelet

Drivers heading in or out of Tofino-Ucluelet Friday afternoon should expect delays

B.C. seizes 1.5M grams contraband tobacco, down from 5.75M grams the year prior

The 2019-2020 seizures were a sharp drop compared to the 2018-2019 year,

B.C. Speaker tight-lipped about aide’s legislature security tour

B.C. Liberals question Alan Mullen’s drive across Canada, U.S.

B.C. sets rules for ride hailing, same minimum fee as taxis

Larger operating areas seen as threat by cab companies

B.C. manhunt suspects left cellphone video before they died: family

Family member says Kam McLeod, Bryer Schmegelsky recorded final wishes

Okanagan bus driver assaulted for asking patron not to smoke

59-year-old in hospital with non-life threatening injuries

Two hiking families team up to extinguish fire in B.C. backcountry

Children and their parents worked for three hours to ensure safety of the popular hiking region

Police seek tips in 2015 death of Island teen Brown

Four years has passed since the body of Penelakut Island woman was discovered

Most Read