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

RCMP report

Some of the more interesting callouts for Columbia Valley RCMP November 4-10th

Films celebrate passionate people and places

Get your tickets now for upcoming Wild & Scenic Film Festival

Helping women improve their career prospects

CBAL offers women an eight-week career program starting November 19th

Walking around a Winter Wonderland market

Winter Wonderland Market on this Saturday, November 14th

A taxpayer’s penny for your thoughts

District of Invermere hosts coffee chats Thursday, November 14th for tax talks

VIDEO: B.C. to restrict nicotine content, bring in 20% tax on vaping products

Province will also restrict candy and fruit flavoured vaping products to adult-only stores

Seguin lifts surging Stars to 4-2 win over Canucks

Dallas is 6-0-1 in last seven outings

B.C. government working with RCMP to address $10 million in budget cuts

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth issues statement following report of RCMP cost-cutting

‘City that protects rapists’: Sexual assault survivor slams Kelowna mayor for defending RCMP

Heather Friesen spent the morning handing out flyers around city hall calling out the mayor

BC Liquor Stores to move fully to paper bags by March

Vancouver Island to be the first to convert to paper bags in November

Tolko shuts B.C. divisions for two weeks over holidays

Head office to close from Dec. 23-27; two weeks’ downtime runs Dec. 21-Jan. 6

Port Moody mayor says stayed sex assault charge related to ‘awkward date’

Rob Vagramov said charge was related to a string of dates in 2015

UBC conference draws fire over speaker from Chinese tech company blacklisted in U.S.

The company that has been blacklisted by the U.S. over links to the repression of China’s Muslim minority

‘It’s been 12 years’: Father of murdered B.C. real estate agent pleads for mayor’s help

Lindsay Buziak was stabbed to death on Feb. 2, 2008 in Saanich. Her case is unsolved.

Most Read