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Artist’s Memoir of Life During Holocaust Allegedly Fake

The late artist Rosemarie Koczy, author of the three-volume memoir I Weave You A Shroud (2009–13), which detailed her life in German concentration camps during the Holocaust, allegedly faked her life story, according to Annalisa Quinn of the New York Times. A group of German archivists this past summer were gathering information for an upcoming exhibition of the artist’s work at the Kunsthalle Recklinghausen when they discovered records stating that her family was not Jewish, but Roman Catholic, along with detailed lists of Jews who were taken to concentration camps without the artist’s family name appearing on any of them. “The pictures are very impressive, and very dramatic, because the theme of her pictures is death and pain and fright. But her life, I’m sorry, it’s a fake,” said Matthias Kordes, the lead archivist on the project, of the artist and her work.

But composer Louis Pelosi, the artist’s widower, said the claims aren’t true, and that the records found by Kordes and his team were the result of a religious conversion by Koczy’s family to protect themselves from the Nazis. In her memoir, the artist said she had siblings who spent time with her in the camps, but that they did not have the same memories of those days that she had: “They have rejected me because they don’t want to admit the Holocaust,” wrote Koczy.

Apparently the artist, who struggled with depression and tried taking her own life on several occasions, was always worried that her accounts of torture and victimization would somehow never fully be believed, especially in light of Binjamin Wilkomirski’s book Fragments (1996), an Auschwitz memoir that was fabricated. The Guggenheim, which has some pieces by the artist in its collection, made a statement about the artist related to the allegations: “There are no current plans to exhibit the works. We actively update information about artworks in our collection and will consider this new research as it develops.” But a spokesperson for the Yad Vashem, a Holocaust museum in Jerusalem that also has some of her pieces as a part of its holdings, said, “Regardless of Koczy’s contested status as a survivor,” her art is “a response to the Holocaust and continue to be relevant to our collection which is where they shall remain.”