The Oświęcim murals featured on this unique trail were mainly created as part of Life Festival Oświęcim (2010–2018), although some of the artwork was made on the initiative of the Auschwitz Jewish Centre.
The blessed peace of nothingness – on an Oświęcim wall
There are as many as thirteen murals on the trail. We invite you to view these extraordinary wall artworks!
1. 'Contrabassists' (Zamkowa Street 1, the building is currently under renovation) was created by Edward Dwurnik in 2011 as part of the Life Festival Oświęcim. The mural depicts young, pre-war double bass players against a background of Prussian blue. The work is highly symbolic... It is intended to lift the gloomy spell cast over the town by its one-track association with the death camp and draw attention to other facets of Oświęcim.
2. ‘The Guitarist’ (intersection of J. Śniadeckiego Street and Z. Wróblewskiego Street; northern facade of the building) by Andrzej Pągowski was made on the wall of a WWII German bunker in 2012, also as part of the Life Festival Oświęcim. It is a special place for the author, as part of his family was murdered in the camp. He chose to present the idea of peace, combined with music and art, symbolically. Against the dark background, peaceful doves and a rock guitarist stand out, representing a genre of music particularly close to the author. It was a special time for the artist as he was celebrating 35 years of artistic work.
3. 'Blessed Peace of Nothingness' (intersection of J. Śniadeckiego Street and Z. Wróblewskiego Street; western facade of the building) is a work by Rafał Olbiński made on the wall of a WWII German bunker. It is a manifesto of the return to beauty – non-commercial and non-propagandistic beauty, without undue pathos or overblown styles. The author is often called a 'painter-poet,' showing in his art the natural beauty we overlook in our busy lives. In this way, he forces us to stop and reflect on what is essential.
4. In 2014, Rafał Olbiński decorated another WWII German bunker. The festival mural 'Unintended Tide of the Sea' (intersection of J. Śniadeckiego Street and Z. Wróblewskiego Street; southern facade of the building) continues the earlier work. It completes the narrative of excessive human haste and failure to notice the natural beauty.
Talking heads – not only about peace
5-8. During Life Festival Oświęcim 2012, the town's residents, Tomasz Kiek and Mateusz Makarewicz, created seven murals – 'Talking Heads' – depicting figures and quotes characterising their activities or work. They focused on tolerance, human rights, peace and civil society. Which heads are 'talking'? Currently, only four "Talking Heads" remain. On the Oświęcim walls we find Maria Skłodowska-Curie (Kościelna Street 10a), Martin Luther King (Ludwik Solskiego Street 4, mural from Stolarska Street), John Paul II (building at the intersection of W. Jagiełły Street and Klasztorna Street; view from the Klasztorna Street) and Mahatma Gandhi (underside of the Piastowski Bridge Bulwarowa Street). The works aim primarily at the younger generation to provoke reflection and raise awareness of the historical experiences of people and countries. The murals were made in various parts of the city as part of a project organised by the Jewish Centre in Oświęcim.
9. 'Oświęcim – Impression' (Maksymiliana Kolbego Street 18) is a painting designed by Professor Elżbieta Kuraj-Karbowniczek and made in 2012 with several artists as part of the Artists to the City event. There we can admire panoramas of the pre-war and contemporary city.
It Is Sublimely in Oświęcim – a Polish-Ukrainian project
10. ‘It Is Divine in Oświęcim’ (Władysława Jagiełły Street 10) is a mural from 2014, and was made by Polish and Ukrainian youths as part of the 'Małopolska Heritage – Educational Voucher' programme. It refers to the city's patron saint, St John Bosco.
11. Tomasz Bagiński created 'The Cathedral' (Plebańska Street 2; view from the General J. Dąbrowski Street) as part of Life Festival Oświęcim 2016. This is a frame from his Oscar-nominated short film of the same title. The artist makes no secret of the fact that he draws inspiration from the works of Zdzisław Beksiński and Jacek Dukaj.
12. ‘Life’ (Generała Józefa Bema Street 8; view from the K. Olszewski Street) is a work by German artist Heiko Klohn, made as part of the Tauron Life Festival Oświęcim 2017. It depicts a screaming man, which can, for example, symbolise living in a spirit of tolerance for others. However, is this what the mural is talking about? Everyone has to answer the question for themselves.
13. 'Airship' (Władysława Jagiełły Street 12, side elevation), captured as part of the last edition of Tauron Life Festival Oświęcim, was created by Jarosław Jaśnikowski in 2018. It is a unique combination of the real and the imaginary world in which different laws operate. The bridge between these worlds in the artist's work is often a window. We can look into another unknown planet, an alternative reality through it. Is it better?
An unhurried walk to the 'House of Values'
These are, of course, not all the murals we find on Oświęcim walls. If we still haven't had enough of this unique artwork, we can always try to find other extraordinary works of art. For example, the series 'House of Values.'
Freedom, hope, justice, equality, respect, and responsibility are universal ethical concepts. A type of debate about their condition in society is the murals under the common title 'House of Values' (Legionów Street 11), a project of the Foundation for the International Youth Meeting Centre and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. The author of the portraits of Anna Dymna, Andrzej Seweryn, Jurek Owsiak and Marian Turski is Łukasz Majerowski.
On the other hand, 'Mural in the Peace Park' (Peace Park, part of the park, north of Aleja Tysiąclecia) is a multicoloured and cheerful work by Anna Wardęga-Czaja. It alludes to the symbolism of peace, such as a dove with an olive branch, hands holding each other, or a heart on a hand. The forms of the drawings are simplified and resemble a child's colouring book.
While in Oświęcim, one should also not miss the 'Bird Mural' (wall of the Jewish cemetery from General Jarosław Dąbrowski Street), a work by Wojciech Rokosz created in 2022 on the wall of the Jewish cemetery. It is a unique combination of Jewish tombstone symbolism and... ecology, as the cemetery is an enclave of green in the city, where birds often reside. The author immortalised eight species of birds, incorporating their images into the partially overgrown wall. The project was created in collaboration with the Jewish Centre in Oświęcim.
Unique symbolism – unique murals
The murals, both on and off the trail, represent the unique heritage of the City of Peace. They show a different face of the city, free from the burden of apparent references to destruction, death and sadness, but full of symbolism and unique beauty. They invite us to stop and reflect... These walls will indeed speak to us!