Commissioned Memory - Hungarian Exhibitions in Auschwitz, 1960/1965

Gyula Konfár: Resistance in the Camp (Prisoners of the Concentration Camp), 1965

Blinken OSA Archivum, Galeria Centralis
September 14 – December 3, 2023

Curator: Daniel Véri

Graphic designer: Sarolta Ágnes Erdélyi, Hajnalka Illés

Exhibiting artists: Tibor Barabás, Gyula Hincz, György Jovánovics, János Kass, Béla Kondor, György Konecsni, Gyula Konfár, József Péri, Endre Szász


Related events:


Curatorial Guided Tours in Hungarian by Dániel Véri

Date: December 2, 2023, at 4:00 p.m.

Date: December 3, 2023, at 4:00 p.m.

Contrary to popular belief, the Holocaust was not a taboo in the fine arts of early Socialist Hungary. In addition to numerous non-commissioned works of art, the subject also emerged within official memory politics. The research-based exhibition and the accompanying book in preparation present an early Kádár-era chapter of Holocaust memory in the fine arts; the rediscovered art material from the 1960s Hungarian exhibitions in Auschwitz.
The Polish museum, operating at the site of the former concentration camp, offered barracks for national exhibitions from 1960 onward. In 2004, the Blinken OSA Archivum presented the history of the Hungarian exhibitions in Auschwitz under the title Auschwitz 1945–1989. Reconstruction. At that time, however, nothing was known about the fact that the organizers had commissioned a monumental art collection, as an illustration to the historical material of the (supposedly) first exhibition in 1965. The current exhibition reconstructs this completely forgotten group of artworks.

The 1965 Auschwitz exhibition was the second major state project connected to the memory of the Holocaust, after the Hungarian memorial in Mauthausen designed by Agamemnon Makrisz (1959–64). The exhibition and the works on display (by Gyula Hincz, János Kass, Béla Kondor, György Konecsni, Gyula Konfár, István Martsa, József Péri, József Somogyi, Endre Szász, and Imre Varga—unlike the rejected sculpture by Tibor Barabás) presented a historical narrative that emphasized antifascism, with particular reference to the role played by the Communists, whom the authorities regarded as their own ancestors and a source of legitimacy. Although none of the commissioned artists had any first-hand experience of the Holocaust, the figure and perspective of the victims were still represented both in the works and in the press, thus shaping the public memory of the Holocaust.
Nevertheless, the works soon disappeared from view: in 1979, as used exhibition decorations, they were relegated to the storage of a museum in Hungary, where most of them have remained until now. The exhibition reconstructs the history, original subject, and context of the works, which have lost their original meaning and function.

Historical research has only recently revealed that the 1965 exhibition was preceded by a smaller one in 1960. Research in preparation for the current reconstruction confirmed that visual art here also played a role: works by surviving women artists (Ágnes Lukács and Rózsa Káldor), produced immediately after the war, were exhibited as testimonies and authentic illustrations of the historical narrative. It was furthermore possible to link to the 1960 exhibition a completely unknown large painting depicting Hitler as a vampire, and to identify the work on which the composition was based: an early drawing by Simon Wiesenthal, who later became known as the “Nazi hunter.”

Both 1960s exhibitions were completely devoid of the subject of the Roma Holocaust. In order to compensate for this, the current exhibition presents the earliest work in Hungary dealing with the topic, initiated by Roma intellectuals but never realized; an abstract memorial by György Jovánovics from 1974.
The analysis of Hungarian exhibitions in Auschwitz highlights the important role of visual art both as testimony and as exhibition decoration, and also confirms that the memory of the Holocaust was indeed present in the public space in the early years of Socialism, although initially only abroad and within the framework of antifascist memory politics.

A virtual version of the 2004 exhibition is available at
The exhibition was realized in cooperation between the CEU Jewish Studies Program and the Blinken OSA Archivum



Exhibition opening: September 14, Thursday, 6:00 p.m.
(The event is held in Hungarian.)

Opening remarks by:
István Rév, Director, Blinken OSA Archivum
Eszter Susán, Program Manager, Jewish Life Program, Tom Lantos Institute

Opening speech by:
András Kovács, Professor, CEU Jewish Studies Program


Related Events:

Curatorial Guided Tour

Date: September 23, 2023
Time: at 4:00 p.m.
Venue: Galeria Centralis

Curatorial Guided Tour in English by Dániel Véri

Date: September 30, 2023
Time: at 4:00 p.m.
Venue: Galeria Centralis

Contested Memories: Antifascism, Jews, and the Holocaust

a roundtable discussion


The Budapest Jewish Studies Colloquium
 in cooperation with
the CEU-Democracy Institute, the CEU Jewish Studies Program, and the Tom Lantos Institute

Time: October 19, 5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m., 2023
On-site: Blinken OSA Archivum, Arany János utca 32, Budapest, research room

Registration link:

Curatorial Guided Tour in Hungarian by Dániel Véri

Date: October 21, 2023
Time: at 4:00 p.m.
Venue: Galeria Centralis

Forgotten Dead: The Memory of the Roma Holocaust
roundtable discussion & short film screening
participants: Angéla Kóczé, Anna Lujza Szász, Daniel Véri
November 8, 6:00 p.m. CET
Budapest & online
Blinken OSA Archivum | Arany János u. 32, 1051

Registration (both for Zoom and attending in person)
A joint event by CEU’s Romani Studies and Jewish Studies Programs, in cooperation with the Blinken OSA Archivum.