WARSAW, Poland -- Polish prosecutors are investigating a Swedishartist's claim that he used the ashes of Holocaust victims to make apainting, an act that could carry a prison term.
The artist, CarlMichael von Hausswolff, wrote on the website of a gallery in Lund,Sweden, last year that he made a painting using ashes that he took fromcrematorium furnaces in Majdanek, a former Nazi German death camplocated in eastern Poland, on a visit there in 1989.
SpokeswomanBeata Syk-Jankowska said Tuesday that local prosecutors have opened aninvestigation to check whether there is truth to the artist's claim. Shesaid there is no evidence and prosecutors are acting on media reports.Swedish investigators will be asked for assistance in gatheringevidence, she said.
It could be difficult, even impossible, todetermine whether von Hausswolff is telling the truth or staging apublicity stunt. If he did actually use the ashes, it would likely beextremely offensive to Holocaust survivors and many others. He alsocould be charged in Poland with desecrating human ashes or a restingplace and face up to eight years in prison.
In 1989, there werestill some human ashes remaining in furnaces from World War II from theburning of the Nazi's victims. Removing any ash would be a crime, butthere were no security cameras on the site at the time to register suchan action, Agnieszka Kowalczyk, a spokeswoman for the museum at thesite, told The Associated Press.
The AP has made multiple attemptsto get comment from the artist's gallery, but in one case the ownerrefused comment and on Tuesday no one answered the phone. The exhibitionclosed in December in reaction to the scandal involving the painting,which Polish media have described as small with just brown and graylines.
Between 1941 and 1944, some 150,000 people were held at theMajdanek camp. An estimated 80,000 of them died, most of whom wereJewish.