In this Friday, Jan. 19, 2018 photo two Belrusian men, Adam Bialiatski, left and Mikita Valadzko, right, speak to The Associated Press in Warsaw, Poland. A Polish court has sentenced the two to prison for organizing a 2017 stunt in which they and other young adults stripped naked at Auschwitz and chained themselves together to the ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ gate as one man slaughtered a sheep. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski, file)

2 men get prison for slain sheep ‘performance’ at Auschwitz

The men said their act was an ‘artistic performance’ to protest the wars in Ukraine and Syria

On a cold day in March 2017, a group of young adults stripped naked at the former Auschwitz death camp and chained themselves together to the “Arbeit Macht Frei” gate as one man plunged a knife into a sheep’s body over and over again.

The two organizers of the stunt, including the man who killed the sheep, described their act as an “artistic performance” to protest the wars in Ukraine and Syria. But Polish judges have taken a different view, seeing animal cruelty and the desecration of a memorial site where Nazi German forces killed some 1.1 million people.

The District Court in Krakow confirmed on Tuesday that the man who killed the sheep, Adam Bialiatski, was sentenced a week ago to a year in prison, while a second man, Mikita Valadzko, was given eight months. Nine other participants were ordered to pay fines. The May 21 ruling came after the two appealed earlier convictions, and is final.

Bialiatski is the son of human rights activist, Ales Bialiatski, who has been jailed for promoting democracy in autocratic Belarus. He has refused to comment on his son’s case, while the son has avoided questions about how his father felt about his provocative brand of activism.

“Our Ukrainian brothers and sisters are still dying,” Bialiatski told The Associated Press in an interview last year. “We thought if we do this performance art in a place like Auschwitz, we will attract attention to the war.”

During their performance, they unfurled a banner that said “Love” at the gate with the notorious Nazi inscription “Arbeit Macht Frei” (Work Sets You Free.) A group of men and women — six Poles, four Belarusians and one German — were chained together in the freezing cold and chanted a prayer: “I love all people, I love our planet, I have no enemies!”

When the men were convicted in 2018, Judge Bozena Holecka said an autopsy of the sheep revealed it was stabbed 15 times and that no creature, human or animal, should ever lose its life in such a place.

“How can you protest violence by using violence?” she asked the defendants.

Nazi German forces killed an estimated 1.1 million people, the majority of them Jews, at the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex during their occupation of Poland during World War II.

Auschwitz and other former Nazi death camps today have an iconic status that artists have used to make philosophical points — or simply to shock.

A Spanish performance artist, Santiago Sierra, in 2006 turned a synagogue into a gas chamber in Germany, saying he wanted to give people a sense of the Holocaust, but angering Jewish representatives.

A Polish artist, Zbigniew Libera, used LEGO pieces in 1996 to build a toy concentration camp, also sparking outrage, although today his works are show in museums across the world. Another Polish artist, Artur Zmijewski, created a video installation in 1999 showing naked men and women playing a game of tag in one of the gas chambers of the former Stuffhof death camp.

Piotr Cywinski, director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau state museum, said following the slain sheep protest that the site “is not a theatre stage or a concert hall. It’s not a space where you can do anything you want.”

ALSO READ: Two dead after plane crashes into forest near Whitehorse airport

ALSO READ: No charges laid in reported sexual assault at Canadian Forces Base on Vancouver Island

Vanessa Gera, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Logging protester arrested near Balfour

Jessica Ogden remains in custody until a hearing date is set

First Nations included in latest Columbia River Treaty talks

Seventh round of negotiations between Canada and U.S. wrap up in Washington D.C.

Close to 1000 people expected to hear international evangelist Angus Buchan this weekend

The Mighty Men’s Conference is taking place in Castlegar June 28-30.

Former Nelson swimmers competing in NCAA

Jordan and Kelsey Andrusak will be rivals in in the Western Athletic Conference

Video shows fireworks shot at swan in Alberta

Alberta Fish and Wildlife is investigating the incident in Grande Prairie

B.C. teen killed by fallen tree on field trip remembered as hero

13-year-old Tai Caverhill was the first to spot the tree falling and warned his friends

Surrey RCMP raises Pride flag amid din of protesters

There were about 30 protesters on either side, and 20 Mounties doing crowd control

‘Text neck’ causing bone spurs to grow from millennials’ skulls, researchers say

Technology use from early childhood causing abnormal bone growths in 41 per cent of young adults

Should B.C. get rid of Daylight Saving Time?

The province wants to know, as state governments down south make the move

Air Canada reviewing how crew left sleeping passenger on parked plane

In a Facebook post, the woman said she woke up ‘all alone’ on a ‘cold dark’ aircraft

Canadians crash out of Women’s World Cup in 0-1 loss to Sweden

Canada missed a chance to tie the game on a penalty shot

Four-year-old boy assaulted at B.C. soccer game

It happened at a weekend tournament in Ashcroft

B.C. residents rethinking summer road trips due to gas prices

63 per cent of respondents reported gas prices are impacting their day-to-day finances

Most Read