Praying Hitler Statue in Former Warsaw Ghetto Sparks Controversy

A praying Hitler statue, created by controversial Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, has garnered mixed reactions since its installation in the former Warsaw Ghetto in Poland last month.

The work, entitled "HIM," features a small statue of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler kneeling, his hands clasped in prayer.

The statue sits beyond a locked gate at 14 Prozna Street in Warsaw, a site which 70 years ago served as a ghetto for Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe, during the German dictator's reign.

The controversial artwork has received mixed reviews, with some labeling it as insensitive, and others commending its ability to prompt provocative discussion regarding good and evil.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights organization, told The Associated Press this week that the statue's placement is "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," the group's Israel director, Efraim Zuroff, said in a statement.

Others, however, have chosen to make their own assessment of the statue upon viewing it.

Two women, both aged 81, told The Jerusalem Post that they came to view the praying Hitler statue because they "want to believe that the statue is intended to show Hitler repenting or apologizing for his evil actions."

The statue was placed in the former ghetto as a part of Cattelan's exhibition at the Center for Contemporary Art in Warsaw, which was introduced last month.

The intended purpose of the exhibition, as stated on the art center's official website, is to serve as "an artistic commentary on the Catholic credo. What, in fact, does love thy enemy mean? What does forgive those who trespass against us mean? Evoking the traumas of history, they deal with memory and forgetfulness, good and evil."

Cattelan, 52, is known for producing controversial works of art, usually relating to religion. Previous works of art include Pope John Paul II being struck by a meteorite, and a statue of a dead horse with a sign reading "INRI" stuck in its side.