Statues on show in Warsaw
Statue on show in Warsaw

A statue of a praying Adolf Hitler have divided opinion after going on show in the former Warsaw ghetto where thousands of Jews were imprisoned and murdered during the Nazi occupation of Poland.

Him by artist Maurizio Cattelan depicts the Nazi dictator on his knees in a pose suggesting repentance.

Up to 300,000 Jews were incarcerated and murdered by the Nazis from 1940 in the ghetto.

The Simon Wiesenthal Centre (SWC) in the US condemned the exhibition as provocative. SWC director Efraim Zuroff labelled it "a senseless provocation which insults the memory of the Nazis' Jewish victims".

"As far as the Jews were concerned, Hitler's only 'prayer' was that they be wiped off the face of the earth," he said.

But organisers of the exhibition at the Centre for Contemporary Art in Warsaw said that the show was intended to test the meaning and value of forgiveness.

A spokesman said: "What does 'forgive those who trespass against us' mean? Evoking the traumas of history, they deal with memory and forgetfulness, good and evil."

Italian artist Cattelan has displayed a relish for using difficult Nazi iconography to make seemingly light gags.

Artist Maurizio Cattlan
Artist Maurizio Cattelan

He once used a mannequin arm in a phallic Nazi salute on the cover of an art magazine.

Gallery director Fabio Cavallucci said that the Warsaw exhibition was not meant to be offensive.

Poland's chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich, reportedly said that the statue may have some educational value.