Comics
Paweł Piechnik
The Bread of Freedom

An innovative narrative approach to the stories of prisoners in a Nazi German concentration camp

Comics
Paweł Piechnik
The Bread of Freedom

An innovative narrative approach to the stories of prisoners in a Nazi German concentration camp

Publisher: Państwowe Muzeum na Majdanku, Lublin 2019
Translation rights: Państwowe Muzeum na Majdanku, d.niedzialkowska@majdanek.eu

The Bread of Freedom is an undiluted look at one of the most tragic chapters in the history of the Second World War. Paweł Piechnik’s graphic novel takes an artistic view of history, taking an innovative narrative approach to the stories of prisoners in the Nazi German concentration camp in Lublin, commonly known as Majdanek.

Piechnik’s story is made up of short testimonies from people of different ethnic backgrounds who managed to survive the hell of the camp. These episodes are arranged into three thematic sections: On Hunger, On Death and On Freedom. This division allows us to see the most essential elements of life in the concentration camp in a small number of pages. Inhumane treatment of prisoners was the rule in Majdanek, where the titular bread baked outside the walls of the camp, unavailable to the prisoners, was a synonym for the freedom that they had been stripped of.

Paweł Piechnik does not shy away from graphic imagery in his panels, yet at the same time he imbues his story with a universal dimension that is full of hope. This graphic novel begins with a stylised prologue about a story of danger, and Piechnik maintains the sombre mood for an extended period, only to finally strike out in a new direction with the chapter On Freedom, which shows how the prisoners fought against this merciless system.

The Bread of Freedom ends with images whose brighter colours link the painful past to our present, and metaphorically free the souls of those who did not survive this German death factory. But thanks to those who did, we can pore over this graphic novel’s short, ostensibly mundane, eyewitness testimonies whose significance is nonetheless disturbing. These are words and images that we ourselves would never want to experience, but which we have no right to ever forget.

Tomasz Miecznikowski

Translated by Sean Gasper Bye

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69

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