Home

Year of the Veteran: Art by Prisoners of War
Share

Year of the Veteran: Art by Prisoners of War

Along with the Year of the Veteran Art Exhibit at City Hall, there’s another small exhibit in our gallery this month in honor of Veterans Day. (Both exhibits are on view through this Monday, December 1.)

The six artworks are poignant examples of how art can emerge from unlikely places. We’ll let the donors behind the exhibit explain:

“The artworks presented here are but some of the works that were done by friends of Major Zbigniew Rozalowski and given to him while he was in Oflag VII-A Murnau, a Polish officers prisoner-of-war camp in the Bavarian town of Murnau, Germany during World War II. They were painted on whatever simple paper the artists could find and whatever paints/inks they could acquire from parcels that arrived from time to time from their families in Poland. These paintings are reprints of the original art that was digitally restored to eliminate moisture and paper aging stains and blemishes.

We are honored to share these paintings for viewing in this exhibit, not only to honor the memory of our beloved Dad but more importantly to honor the memory of so many members of the ‘greatest generation’ and all the brave Veterans on this very special Day.

Artwork by prisoners of war at Murnau, dated from 1941 to 1943. Clockwise from top left, they depict a cavalryman, a guard tower, the view from the entrance to the camp, and a play the prisoners staged in 1943.
Artwork by prisoners of war at Murnau, dated from 1941 to 1943. Clockwise from top left, they depict a cavalryman, a guard tower, the view from the entrance to the camp, and a play the prisoners staged in 1943.

Lt. Rozalowski was assigned to the 7th Lancers Cavalry Regiment and his unit was on military maneuvers when Poland was attacked. During action against the Germans, Lt. Rozalowski was severely wounded. He managed to reach a hospital in the outskirts of Warsaw where he obtained medical treatment.

As the Germans were rapidly approaching, he needed to flee the hospital long before his wounds had healed. He did so and along with others joined units still in the fight.

Eventually, his unit was surrounded by Germans on one side and Russians on the other. Both sides made offers and terms of capitulation. In both cases the terms for the enlisted men were to let them go free after their identification and the officers would go to prisoner of war camps.

A portrait of Zbigniew Rozalowski by a fellow prisoner of war.
A portrait of Zbigniew Rozalowski by a fellow prisoner of war.

The officers sunk all their machine guns, cannons and other armaments in a nearby lake to prevent them from falling into enemy hands. Most officers decided not to capitulate to either side. There were a few officers who decided to capitulate to the Russians as their terms promised that they would also be free after identification. Unfortunately, that promise did not turn out to be true, and those officers became victims of the Russian massacre of thousands of Polish officers in the Katyn forest.

Eventually, Lt. Rozalowski was captured by the Germans and with hundreds of other officers was sent to the officers’ prisoners-of-war camp Oflag VII-A Murnau in Murnau, Germany.

The Germans had many camps throughout Europe. People are most familiar with concentration camps of which there were scores throughout Europe. But there were also many prisoner-of-war camps that were segregated by officers and non-commissioned forces.

Officers were kept in what is termed an Oflag which comes from the German word offizierslager.  Non-commissioned forces were kept in Stalags, the other type of prisoner-of-war camp.  To get a mental image of what the Oflag VII-A Murnau prisoner-of -war camp looked like, you can see the movie, The Great Escape (1963) starring Steve McQueen.  I saw this movie with my father in 1963 and vividly remember him leaning over to me in the theater and telling me how the camp and the life in it closely resembled his five-year experience in Murnau.

Lt. Rozalowski stayed imprisoned in Murnau from 1939 until the camp was liberated by the Americans on April 29th, 1945.  Along with many other officers, he rejoined the Polish forces stationed in Italy where he met his beloved Helena who was a nurse in the Polish hospital and cared for him when his horseman’s knee injury landed him there.

Eventually Polish forces were transferred to the United Kingdom and both Zbigniew and Helena were deployed there as well.  Zbigniew was eventually promoted to the rank of Captain and then Major. Both he and Helena received many military medals honoring their service in the various campaigns they participated in on behalf of their country and the Allied forces.

They married in London and unwilling to go back to communist Poland they, along with many other Poles, emigrated to Buenos Aires, Argentina. After a 14-year wait for emigration papers, Zbigniew, Helena and their two children George and Irene, left Argentina and settled in Florida.”

— George Rozalowski and Irene Rozalowski Klimowicz

Can't get enough?

Sign up for our weekly blog newsletter, subscribe to our RSS feed, or like us on Facebook for the latest Art League news. Visit our homepage for more information about our classes, exhibits, and events in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia.

Share this
Welcome to Artful Weekend -our listing of area art exhibits and events- This weekend: May 2024 Open Exhibit and Cape Cod Waters: Photographs by Meg Clarke at…
Welcome to Artful Weekend -our listing of area art exhibits and events- This weekend: 20th Biennial Ikebana Exhibit and Cape Cod Waters: Photographs by Meg…
Every week we gather a variety of artist opportunities from the DC area and beyond. Find one below and apply today — good luck! Click…
Welcome to Artful Weekend -our listing of area art exhibits and events- This weekend: April 2024 Open Exhibit and And Sew It Goes by Susan Lapham at the…
Every week we gather a variety of artist opportunities from the DC area and beyond. Find one below and apply today — good luck! Click…
By Julia Chance   After a seven-year absence, Artomatic, the peripatetic DMV art festival, returned to D.C. this past March. There’s a lot to see…

Did you know?

You can support The Art League every time you shop through AmazonSmile!

Simply set The Art League as your chosen charity, and every time you shop at smile.amazon.com, a portion of your purchase will be donated to support our mission to share the experience of visual arts with the community.