The First Transport
The First Transport, an installation by Wojciech Korkuć presented at the Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art, is a continuation of an artistic project that began in 2020 following a conversation with Barbara Wojnarowska-Gautier, former prisoner of the Auschwitz concentration camp, victim of Josef Mengele’s experiments, and now the honorary curator of this endeavour. In response to Mrs. Gautier’s request, Korkuć decided to work towards restoring the memory of the first transport of Poles to the largest death factory in the history of the world.
On 14 June 1940, the Germans deported a group of 728 Poles to the recently established Auschwitz concentration camp. The transported group consisted mainly of young people: scouts, students, and members of underground independence organizations. Among them were also soldiers who fought in the September campaign and were trying to reach Hungary to join the Polish Army that was forming there. They were transported by trains from the prison in Tarnów, unaware of the purpose of the journey. At the railway station in Kraków, they heard joyful announcements about the German occupation of Paris (met with no resistance from the French). In subsequent years, thousands of similar transports took place, but this very first one is the subject of Korkuć’s artistic vision. He is one of the few Polish artists who speak up for historical truth.
In memory of that first transport, in June 2020 and 2021, Korkuć carried out a public space project. In Nowogrodzka Street in Warsaw, he installed an exhibition presenting all the names and photographs of the first Polish prisoners of the Auschwitz concentration camp. Posters honouring the memory of this event were also displayed throughout Warsaw.
In The First Transport, the artist goes a step further. He tries to focus on the individual, youngest victims and attempts to shorten the distance between them and contemporary Poles by employing an array of present-day visual techniques.
This year’s project is also accompanied by a wide-ranging media campaign to remind the public of the anniversary of the first transport of Poles to Auschwitz, so that the forgotten memory of the Polish prisoners of this concentration camp is reinstated.
- Honorary curator
- Barbara Wojnarowska-Gautier
- Daniel Echaust