Shadows of the Holocaust

Most of the work which Robert Perry produced during his expeditions to Auschwitz and Oradour, is in the form of drawings, but there are also gouaches, mixed media pieces and oil paintings of various sizes, together with photographs which he took, both as artworks in their own right and as documentary records of the expeditions and the sites visited. Some of the mixed media works consist of photocopied archive material, prepared in advance, which was then over-drawn on location, resulting in interwoven “then and now” images.

A long-time supporter of AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL, Robert Perry’s abhorrence of extremism in all its forms, of injustice, intolerance and racism, compelled him to undertake his working pilgrimages to these sites of 20th Century inhumanity and barbarism.

AUSCHWITZ. 14 June 1940 – 27 January 1945

Over one and a half million people were murdered in the death-camps at Auschwitz and Auschwitz-Birkenau, and in spite of frantic efforts by the panicking Nazis to destroy them and the evidence, those installations, with their barracks, guard towers, barbed wire fences, gas chambers and crematoria still exist and have jointly been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage site, a museum and memorial. During May 1997 Robert Perry spent three weeks working at these grim sites, making drawings and paintings of the chillingly sinister remains.

“The human capacity for intolerance, prejudice and cruelty has not disappeared, even from Europe today; and in that sense the significance of Auschwitz is perennial. Every corner of Auschwitz, whether in bright sunlight or covered in low mist, raises new thoughts, new questions.” Jonathan Webber. Lecturer at Oxford University and a founding member of the International Council of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum.

“Visitors bow their heads in silence. There is an unspoken realization that Auschwitz stands witness to what the fate of humankind will be if we are indifferent to the ideal of peace and the value of human life.” Kazimierz Smolen. Director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum from 1955 to 1990. Auschwitz survivor, political prisoner number 1327.

“Everyone should visit Auschwitz once in their lifetime” Robert Perry


On the 10th June 1944, Oradour, a sleepy little French village beside the River Glane was suddenly and violently transformed into a scene of horror. At 2pm, on that sunny afternoon, a large column of SS appeared out of the blue, cordoned off the village, so that there was no way out, and then, in a ruthlessly methodical and premeditated way, proceeded to massacre the inhabitants. Their evil work completed by 6pm, they then plundered the village and put it to the torch.

In this episode of calculated savagery, 197 men, 240 women and 205 children perished by machinegun fire, bayoneting or burning alive. Only one woman, five men and an eight-year-old boy survived.

When General de Gaulle visited the site at the end of the War, he decreed that, as a memorial, it should preserved exactly as the Nazis had left it and that a new village of Oradour should be built nearby.

It is these preserved, tragic ruins that Robert Perry has contemplated through the lenses of drawing, painting and time.

“I wanted to tell the story as clearly as possible, so that generations to come might understand how the tragedy unfolded, and realise just how people may suffer from the savage cruelty which springs from intolerance, be it religious or political. May it help in remembrance, so that such things may never again occur.” Robert Hebras. Survivor. (from his book “Oradour-Sur-Glane. The Tragedy. Hour by hour”)

As with all his exhibitions, the work produced on location is backed up by information panels featuring documentary and archive photographs, maps and insights provided by excerpts from his field diaries.

Illustrated slide lectures and “Meet the Artist” sessions and some video footage are also available.

Merchandise. Postcards and booklets are available.