Author Topic: Wound Care Forum - Washing Concentration Camp Victims Painting a Horror Story  (Read 3980 times)

Offline DrBermant

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This should not be construed as medical advice. I am a retired Board Certified Plastic Surgeon.

I was browsing the amazing Google Art Project today and came across this powerful image

In 1944 Zinkeisen was commissioned by the Red Cross and St John War Organisation to record their work in north-west Europe, and was one of the few women war artists to be sent overseas. On 15 April 1945 British soldiers entered Bergen-Belsen concentration camp to find a scene of absolute horror. Ten thousand corpses lay unburied, and around 60,000 starving and sick people were packed into the camp’s barracks without food or water. Doris Zinkeisen arrived soon afterwards. Human Laundry is arguably the most powerful work produced by any of the artists who were present. Zinkeisen finds an effective motif in the contrast between the well fed, rounded bodies of the German medical staff and the emaciated bodies of their patients. Although the artist’s later account refers to ‘the German prisoners’, they were actually nurses and doctors from a nearby German military hospital pressed into service. The camp inmates needed to be washed and de-loused to prevent the spread of typhus before they could be admitted to the makeshift Red Cross hospital nearby.

Wound care can involve an entire body wounded by starvation and neglect. The painting is a powerful statement of trying to begin the process to reverse the destruction of abuse. Bodies so close to death, next to those who were nearby but were not helping before.

Michael Bermant, MD
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Michael Bermant, MD
Retired Plastic Surgeon
Surgical Sculptor, Artist, Creative Thinker, Problem Solver
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