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Image of Hitler in prayer 'insults' Jewish groups

| Friday, Dec. 28, 2012, 9:30 p.m.

WARSAW — A statue of Adolf Hitler praying on his knees is on display in the former Warsaw Ghetto, the place where so many Jews were killed or sent to their deaths by the Nazi regime, and it is provoking strong reactions.

The work, “HIM” by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, has drawn many visitors since it was installed last month. It is visible only from a distance, and the artist does not make explicit what Hitler is praying for. The broader point, organizers said, is to make people reflect on evil.

Some are angered by the statue's presence in such a sensitive site.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center this week called the statue's placement “a senseless provocation which insults the memory of the Nazis' Jewish victims.”

“As far as the Jews were concerned, Hitler's only ‘prayer' was that they be wiped off the face of the earth,” said the group's Israel director, Efraim Zuroff.

However, many others praised the artwork, saying it has a strong emotional impact. And organizers defend putting it on display in the former ghetto.

Fabio Cavallucci, director of the Center for Contemporary Art, which oversaw the installation, said, “It's an artwork that tries to speak about the situation of hidden evil everywhere.”

After the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939, they forced Jews to live in cramped, inhuman conditions in the Warsaw Ghetto as they awaited deportation to death camps. Three million Polish Jews died during the Holocaust.

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