Carl Michael von Hausswolff claims he stole ashes from a crematorium at Nazi Germany’s Majdanek concentration camp in Poland in 1989, diluted them in water and used them in a watercolour painting.
Prosecutors decided not to charge him with stealing human remains or graves because the statute of limitations had expired, Beata Syk-Jankowska of the prosecutor’s office in the eastern city of Lublin told AFP.
They could not charge him with desecration of the dead because the ashes were used abroad and thus fell outside of Poland’s jurisdiction.
Syk-Jankowska said the case had been sent back to Sweden.
Polish prosecutors have now asked their Swedish counterparts to check whether von Hausswolff’s actions constitute a crime under their system.
The “Memory Works” painting was exhibited at a gallery in the southern Swedish city of Lund in December, but the show closed after protests by the Jewish community and the Simon-Wiesenthal Centre, which represents Jewish interests.
After a resident filed a police complaint against von Hausswolff for disturbing the peace of the dead, Swedish police opened an investigation, but dropped it for lack of evidence since the offence was committed abroad.
The black-and-white painting featured vertical brushstrokes in a rectangle that symbolized the suffering of the victims.
They “were tortured, tormented and murdered by other people in one of the most ruthless wars of the 20th century,” von Hausswolff said on the gallery website.
The Majdanek camp was created near the city of Lublin by the Nazis in 1941 and was in use until 1944.
Historians working for the museum estimate that some 80,000 prisoners, of which 60,000 were Jews, were executed in the camp’s gas chambers, or died through malnutrition or exhaustion there.
In total, 150,000 people were imprisoned in the camp between 1941 and 1944.