'Auschwitz-Themed' Barbie Exhibit Features Dolls Being Marched into Ovens, Accused of Trivializing Holocaust

An art exhibit called "Barbie Death Camp and Wine Bistro" has prompted outrage at this year's Burning Man festival with its creator accused of trivializing the Holocaust.

The artwork features hundreds of naked Barbie dolls being led into ovens in a representation of a death camp.

Other dolls were shown crucified on pink crosses or dismembered and placed around the ovens, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported. Soldiers carrying rifles were placed behind the dolls, as if marching them towards the ovens.

The controversial exhibit was put together by 65-year-old Jewish artist James Jacoby, according to California newspaper J. The Jewish News of Northern California. A report in the newspaper noted that an electronic screen accompanying the display carried a message declaring it "The friendliest concentration camp" at the festival.

Another message read "arbeit macht plastik frei"—meaning "work makes plastic free"—in reference to the notorious message that sat above the gates of the Nazi-run Auschiwtz concentration camp that read "work makes you free." The message also explained that the camp was presented by "Auschwitz Inc." and "The Mattel Co."

The Anti-Defamation League said it had received several complaints about the exhibit. The group's San Francisco regional director, Seth Brysk, said that while individuals have the right to free expression, "using that free expression to trivialize the Holocaust for the sake of political, social or artistic ends is still deeply offensive and inappropriate. And we would ask people not to do so."

But Jacoby dismissed the complaints, arguing that Burning Man "is not a safe space."

The artist told J. The Jewish News of Northern California that he had been working on the project for 20 years. Though he said he did not intend to "trigger" anybody, he also rejected calls to have the piece taken down.

"It's not Yale University. You don't get to run and hide from something you don't like," Jacoby said. "There's 1,100 theme camps. If you don't like ours, go to another one."

The artist rejected any suggestion that he was trivializing violence against Jews. Jacoby said his father served as an Air Force pilot in World War II and was shot down over Berlin. He explained he had been accused of being a supporter of President Donald Trump and a "Nazi white supremacist" by those offended by the artwork.

Such accusations are "nonsense" he said, noting that he had been displaying the death camp at Burning Man "since Clinton was president." He explained, "We started off small—just 11 miserable Barbies stuffed into an Easy-Bake Oven."

Barbie doll, auschwitz, Burning man, art
A Barbie doll is displayed during an exhibition dedicated to the Barbie doll at on March 7, 2019 in Soultz, France. Chesnot/Getty Images/Getty