Saturday, 16 January 2016

The fake human-skin lampshade

This photo is taken from Benedikt Fahrnschon's 2012 MA thesis on the Belgian artist Luc Tuymans: 'The Representation of the Unrepresentable: Luc Tuymans' Altercation with Nazism and the Holocaust'. The photo shows a small lampshade that was displayed in the Buchenwald museum between 1954 to c.1993 and was passed off to visitors as being a "Lampshade made of human skin"
Below is a photo dated 1993 which I've taken from the Vad Vashem website. It shows the lampshade alongside a shrunken head in a display case at the Buchenwald memorial:

This lampshade was given to the museum by the communist Karl Straub, a former inmate at the camp who in 1946 became the administrator of the Buchenwald committee of the Association of Persecutees of the Nazi Regime, and following the opening of the memorial at Buchenwald in 1954, worked as a full-time tour guide at the former camp up until 1961. 
In 1992 Straub's "lampshade made of human skin" was sent to be tested by Prof. Dieter Leopold of the Institute of Forensic Medicine at the Medical Academy of  Erfurt, Germany; he had the following to say about it:
"Specimen IV (lampshade) is, by contrast, not serologically identified as to being from a human. In all likelihood we are dealing with a plastic that was produced for lampshades at that time. Ultimately, however, it cannot be completely ruled out that biological material is involved."
Soon afterwards the lampshade was removed from display and it presently resides in the museum's archives.

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