Public artwork by Imke Rust (commissioned)
This secret, underground camp has been established by the Nazi regime in 1943 to support production for the armaments industry. About 2000 female prisoners were stationed here and used as forced labour. The living conditions have been described as inhumane and horrible, and many women have died.
The eight life-sized female figures, which have been installed in small groups at different places in the forest, seem to dissolve into the shape of a broken comb.
When I researched the history of this place, one small detail grabbed my attention: several combs or pieces of combs were found hidden here. Ex-prisoners who described the conditions, shared, that they were not allowed to have combs in these camps. Being found with a comb could be punished with death. The women secretly made their own combs out of leftovers from the production materials and these were shared amongst them. Unfortunately the self-made combs were not helpful against the fleas – the big problem in the unhealthy living conditions. One lady was able to smuggle in a fine comb and one had to pay half a ration of bread for the use of this comb.
This story of the combs made me aware that the women, despite all their suffering, still had the will to try and create ways to make their lives a little better. Through my art I want to restore their dignity in a small way and commemorate their will to survive. The sculptures are lifesize, so that visitors can connect to the history on a more personal level.
The women stand proud and strong, while at the same time they fade into the background and are only clearly visible from a certain angle. Making us aware that history can be forgotten quickly, if we make no effort to remember.
The “historic women” stand silently amongst the guests of the first public event:
Some more impressions: