In Hitler's Vestibule

You feel uneasy the moment you enter Jan Zakrzewski's "Sky over Poznan" exhibition (opening April 28 at Kunstlerhaus Bethanien in Berlin and running until May 23). The room is small, somehow narrow. Two big mirrors form a sort of corridor. Once the space served as a vestibule, but, given the room's historic function, perhaps it should be called an antechamber - a place watched over by an armed guard or servant. Unauthorized people would never be allowed to enter.

With good reason. For the creeping anxiety that you feel derives from an awareness that the space where Zakrzewski's exhibition first appeared, in Poznan, was once meant to serve as a vestibule leading to a room where Adolf Hitler awaited you.

That room was designed as a residence in case the Führer ever chose to visit Poznan, then part of the former Kingdom of Prussia, having been absorbed in the second partition of Poland in 1793. On the eve of World War I, in 1913, Kaiser Wilhelm II built Poznan castle. At the beginning of World War II, Albert Speer converted the Castle's chapel into a residence for his master. The office was ready for occupancy in 1943 just before the Battle of Stalingrad - and just after the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Hitler, however, never visited. When in Prussia, he preferred his "Wolf's Lair" forest headquarters.

The city of Poznan is located mid-way between Warsaw and Berlin, and Zakrzewski sees it as the symbolic frontier between East and West, Germany and Poland. In that vestibule, you feel yourself in no man's land.