"Six of you are going out but only five of you are coming back - the dogs are hungry today"

Hollow Dog Maurice Blik

1945:Irma Grese

‘Six of you are going out but only five of you are coming back – the dogs are hungry today.’

Irma Grese was a beautiful young camp guard who had a habit of taking prisoners out to work and coming back with fewer.

In she stormed, black polished jackboots, holstered pistol strapped around her waist, and her Alsatian dog leashed at her side. She saw me sitting on the floor next to someone’s bunk, waiting for them to die so that I could grab the food under their head and take it back to my family.

She stared straight at me, thought for a moment and then grinned. Slowly and deliberately she reached into one of the deep pockets of her military jacket and took out a shiny red apple. She held it in her hand for a moment, admiring it, and then began crunching into it, her eyes fixed on me. Juices began trailing down the sides of her mouth. I knew she was taunting me. I kept still, not daring to move or show any reaction. She ate the apple down to its core and then placed it carefully on the floor, unleashing the dog and setting it to guard the remains before walking off.

Dog and I faced each other as it sat on its back legs, with the core between its front legs, snarling and baring its teeth. I remained stock-still, trying to show no fear. I knew if I ran or tried to grab the core, it would tear me apart. We sat like that for I don’t know how long, until she came back. Amused to see that I hadn’t tried to make a grab for the apple core, she stomped on it and ground the remains into the bare wooden floorboards until there was nothing left even to scrape off. Then, putting the dog back on its leash, she paced out of the hut looking pleased with her lesson.

This was probably a minor episode in her daily repertoire of sadism, but I like to think that I thwarted her expectations of me. She didn’t come back to a five-year-old bloodied and mauled by the dog’s jaws. She found me expressionless and calm, exactly as she had left me. In my own way, I had stood up to her. I felt the victory was mine. In fact, she did me a favour. She laid down an early benchmark for fear and intimidation which has served me well throughout my life. The upshot of it is that nothing much intimidates me. I confront situations that most people would back away from. In my late forties I made a citizen’s arrest on a policeman I caught stealing my property. It went all the way to court, and he was convicted for it, along with a host of other crimes.

This instinctive boldness often shocks and confounds people. Perhaps they glimpse a ferocious alter ego lurking, waiting to be unleashed on my adversary if absolutely necessary. Fortunately, I rarely have to test this theory. I restrain the beast. My sentiments instead tend to materialise through my sculpture, which some people have interpreted as projecting a restrained tension.

A first-hand narrative of the horrors of Bergen-Belsen, seen through the eyes of a child, and the remarkable life that followed.

At the age of five, Maurice Blik experienced some of the worst atrocities of WW2, a legacy that remained silent in him for almost forty years, until it found a voice in the sculpture he began to create in the late 1970s.

As the story unfolds, so clues from his past emerge, and connect with his artistic legacy. Often reticent when asked to talk about his work, Maurice Blik has tended to leave it to others to interpret his sculptures. In this artobiography, he takes conclusive ownership of the narrative, acknowledging links between his dramatic past and key bodies of his work.

With a foreword by Natasha Kaplinsky.