"Hand of a Deceased." Illustrations of Olga Siemaszko from the collection of POLIN Museum

When in the late 1960s a new edition of memoirs of Maria Zarębińska-Broniewska, a former inmate of the Auschwitz concentration camp who died shortly after the war, were published, her book "Opowiadania oświęcimskie" ["Auschwitz tales"] was merged with the poetry of Maria’s husband, Władysław Broniewski. This volume, in a hew form and under new title "Ręka umarłej" ["Hand of a Deceased"] has been illustrated and edited graphically by Olga Siemaszko.

  • 10 January – 25 March 2024
  • Main hall
  • Free entrance

Olga Siemaszko, neé Binder (1911–2000), a native of Cracow, spent early years of war in Lviv, where she maintained contacts with the Broniewski family. Later, due to her Jewish heritage, she was forced to hide in the countryside. After the war she worked as an illustrator, chiefly focusing on children’s books, including seminal illustrations for Polish editions of "Alice in the Wonderland," "Pinocchio" or "The Steam Engine." "Hand of a Deceased," published by Książka i Wiedza publishing house takes a special place in her corpus or works, both as a book for adults and possibly the only project that is directly referring to the Second World War and the Holocaust. Siemaszko never addressed her Jewish heritage publicly and also has not directly touched upon the subject of war or Holocaust in her other works.

Presented illustration projects are a fascinating testament to her working techniques and the search for the optimal form of her creations. The exhibition largely consists of the versions that were ready for printing, but have ultimately never been selected for publication. The untrimmed edges, masking tape, margin notes or print registration marks, usually absent or hidden in exhibited works, are exposed here on purpose, as an inherent part of the publishing process.

"Hand of a Deceased" is an intriguing edition on its own. It has been published shortly after the events of March 1968, during the anti-Semitic campaign of the Communist Party that began in the wake of the Arab-Israeli Six Days War in 1967. Isn’t it a paradox, that such book has been published in the very end of 1960s? Maria Zarębińska-Broniewska was not a Jewess, but at least part of the people portrayed in her stories are definitely Jewish. So maybe it was the real reason why the book that, according to the publishing note, was already finished in April 1969, has eventually been released for printing only in February 1971?

Polish flag and symbol of eagle.

Logo of Ministry of Culture and National Heritage.