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Visions of the Inferno

Voices about the 'Visions of the Inferno'

"Blumenbild mit Fratzen"

Frankl's friend, the physician Prof. Dr. F. Mlczoch, who knew of the talent for painting exhibited in Frankl's youth, suggested that he should start painting flowers as a pastime, claiming this would calm him, was harmonious and peaceful by its very nature and would give him a chance of bringing an organic order into the chaos that had descended upon him through no fault of his own and was now rising from his subconscious to torment him. Yet the flowers painted by Frankl were disfigured masks, distorted by hate and panic.

One night, awaking once more from a nightmare, he decided to embark on a work which would reflect the truth and factuality of his "inferno" through "visions", at the same time liberate his tortured soul in the act and graphically confront not only the heirs and descendants of the National Socialist Germany with the most inhuman years of German history.

Frankl has given us a portrait of this inferno in numerous paintings characterized by garish colors and bizarre brushstrokes. What he has painted is at the same time his very own "inferno" and the inferno of millions of other victims but also the inferno of the henchman, the stations of "horror", heartrending symbols of a panorama - the simultaneously frenzied and ossified history of the Third Reich and its inhumanity, which addled critics of today are beginning to regard with a kind of proto-fascist nostalgia. The faces of the tortured and the faceless torturers emerge from Frankl's paintings. He works synthetically, puts the abstract into concrete shapes, concentrates on the individual to convey an impression of the whole.

Prof. Dr. Walter Huder

Among the physiognomies to be found in Adolf Frankl´s paintings, there is only one "substantial" face, one single face which seems to manifest heroic determination. It is the countenance of Adolf Eichmann. But the individual features of this countenance, the mouth, eyes, ears and nose, are composed - in a way reminiscent of the mannerist painter Arcimboldo - of emaciated corpses from the camp. The features of the final solution stare out from beneath the peaked cap with its eagle emblem and silver braid.

Turning finally to the technique and colors of Adolf Frankl´s paintings, we cannot fail to recognize the influence of the Vienna Expressionists and the early work of Oskar Kokoschka. Viennese painting of the years around 1910 was seeing with incredible nervousness and anti-naturalistic inclination towards hypertrophic or cryptic expression. But in the works of Kokoschka or of the even more expressive Egon Schiele, this all remained related to aesthetic intentions. In Frankl´s paintings, the expressive techniques alter their meaning. The method of applying paint, the use of the brush and the palette knife, looks incoherent, even chaotic. But precisely because of this it succeeds in reminding us of something inconceivable: the complete disintegration of civilization and decency in the world of the camp.

Prof. Dr. Willibald Sauerländer

We have to see to it that what happened during the years of National Socialism doesn't get forgotten and that our younger generation realizes how quickly a murderous system of that kind can develop, and basically, that it is therefore necessary to recognize the first signs and to nip them in the bud. We older people have lived through it and know about it, but it has to be gotten across to the younger generation - and that is the hard part!

The best method is dialogue between young people and those who were eye-witnesses, those who actually lived through the events. It is also important that exhibitions like this one here be seen and reflected upon, because what Frankl has so candidly painted are really the torments of the soul.

It is important to develop teaching methods which enable members of the younger generation - who were not themselves involved, who were born 30/40 years after the end of National Socialism, and who cannot have any sense of personal guilt – to understand what actually happened and to realize that no effort should be spared to prevent that sort of thing – and a recurrence is always possible, not only in Germany – from ever occurring again.

Bundespräsident Roman Herzog

The paintings of Adolf Frankl give a special poignancy to this protest against the evils of intolerance, hatred and denial of fundamental human rights. They remind all of us that the road from human wrongs to human rights is not an easy one; that we must educate our children and young people with a sense of openness and comprehension toward other people, their diverse cultures and their fundamental shared humanity; and that we have to teach them the importance of protecting and promoting human rights, of refusing violence and adopting peaceful means for resolving disagreements and conflicts.

Education for human rights is one of the main targets of the activities of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. In this framework, "Visions of the Inferno" is a significant contribution to the United Nations International Decade for Human Rights Education (1995-2005). It will also contribute to highlight the importance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a beacon in the history of humanity, the fiftieth anniversary to the adoption of which will be celebrated by the international community in 1998.

UN-High Commissioner for Human Rights

The Paintings
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