Nazi Death Camp in LEGO

Arguably the most controversial LEGO creation of all time may have been Polish artist Zbigniew Libera’s 7-piece “Konzentrationslager“.

Nearly 15 years later, yoshix presents “Todeslager”.


A line of prisoners walks in the snow toward a building labeled “Showers” while other prisoners are forced to unload coal for the gas chamber’s engines. A guard leans his rifle against the wall of the building. The barrel of a sniper rifle pokes from the window of a watchtower overlooking the scene.

So, what do you see in this diorama? (Let’s set aside speculation about the builder’s intent for the moment, because — let’s face it — those kinds of discussions are hardly fair and rarely interesting.) What does it say to you?

And how does it fit into the broader LEGO military building “scene”? Are there certain subjects that should never be depicted in LEGO? If so, what are they, and why?

33 comments on “Nazi Death Camp in LEGO

  1. CShepherd

    I know what I see in it, and I have a feeling that my opinion is in line with the vast majority of BB readers.

    The question is what is the creators intention? Is it “art that provokes thought” or is it a personal statement? Part of the reason why subjects like this aren’t covered is that it can be easily interpreted as a personal statement rather than art. Without knowing the builder or his background, it’s hard to say. Either way, it’s pretty bold but I wouldn’t get worked up about it. If we overreact, then the wrong team wins.

  2. Starwars4J

    I see no problem in this kind of MOC whatsoever, and yes I’m Jewish. This is just another part of history, albeit an ugly part. We review history to learn from it, and forbidding one particular part of history to be depicted because of how ugly it was just serves to allow for something similar to happen again. And to then say “But this is LEGO, you shouldn’t deal with such horror in LEGO”, would be to ignore every other single act of violence, both historical and fantasy, which are routinely depicted in LEGO (often to great praise).

    To put it frankly, this was a real event in history, and a model focused around this particular event should be no more controversial than any other. I don’t for one second question the builder’s intent, as I have absolutely NO reason to. I find it as very well built, though I’d have liked the snow to have a little more detail. Tracks in the snow, dirtied snow, mounds here and there, creating some changes of level of snow, etc.

  3. miniflea

    The beauty of Lego is that in can be used to make anything. It is a medium, like paint or clay or photography.

  4. Will Will

    You’d have to be in a dark, dark mood to labor over this for hours. That, or effectively anesthetized so as not to get overly depressed…

    Interesting that little LEGO’s can force me to emote such ambivalence. Who’d-a-thunk-it?

  5. Luke Chapman

    P​ersonally, this doesn’t sit right with me, but I wouldn’t want my opinion to encroach upon the “artistic” freedoms of the builder.

    One of the main arguments for the continued “fictionalised” depiction of the Holocaust​ is the “lest we forget” one, Starwars4J touched upon earlier. Dramatisations shouldn’t be a means to inform, nor a means to help an individual connect emotionally or empathise (as best anyone can who has not experienced such events first hand) with the victims.

    D​espite my feelings and ​t​o the builders credit, I feel they have presented the subject matter in a relatively unsensationalised and somewhat matter-of-fact way.

  6. Capt. Thomas Foolery

    Starwars4J and miniflea both hit upon very nicely it for me.

    One of the arguments I often see proposed against this kind of MOC is that it demeans the subject by constructing it in LEGO bricks. The Konzentrationslager link contains a quote that suggests building it with LEGO equates the murder with child’s play. I don’t know the artist or his relationship with the brick, but I find it an incredibly weak, overly-simplified association to make. As miniflea states above: LEGO is a medium, just as any other artistic medium, be it paint or clay or stone. To immediately associate what adult LEGO builders construct as inherently childish or child-like because of its medium, trivializes it and de-legitimizes it as a medium of serious expression.

    To suggest that certain topics, especially historic events given the popularity of depicting them among AFOLs, should be off limits because they utilize LEGO is tantamount to trivializing the very object many of us choose to work in. Personally, I opt for more whimsical creations as they lend themselves very easily to the LEGO medium. So I admire that people can take a plastic brick that is perceived to be primarily aimed at a younger age group and make a serious or even painful statement with it.

    Essentially, I suppose it boils down to whether we consider what we’re doing as artistic expression, or just playing with plastic bricks. The angle at which we approach LEGO largely determines what we feel it is capable of and what is appropriate.

  7. Biggerjim

    “I feel they have presented the subject matter in a relatively unsensationalised and somewhat matter-of-fact way.”


    I think there is a place for reminder of horrible events we wish never happened. I am to young to remember any of this first hand but visual aides can help you connect at least a little bit.

  8. Starwars4J

    “Dramatisations shouldn’t be a means to inform, nor a means to help an individual connect emotionally or empathise (as best anyone can who has not experienced such events first hand) with the victims.”

    Luke, I think either you misunderstood me or I wasn’t clear when I first spoke. While I do see dramatization as a legitimate means to inform (why not? The History Channel has done marvelous work, not to mention it connects more with visual learners), I’m not saying this necessarily was made to inform. Some people just enjoy history and like to build in history, as others like to build mecha, space ships, trains, etc. I see this as no different than any other MOC, and am totally perplexed as to why anyone would, other than to stir up controversy over nothing, as so many people in this day and age like to.

  9. clowes

    I am not fully following this part of the argument:

    “One of the main arguments for the continued “fictionalised” depiction of the Holocaust​ is the “lest we forget” one, Starwars4J touched upon earlier. Dramatisations shouldn’t be a means to inform, nor a means to help an individual connect emotionally or empathise (as best anyone can who has not experienced such events first hand) with the victims.”

    Can someone explain to me why this is a dramatization? As someone who majored in history in college, I can assure you, this scene is not dramatized in any way… if anything this is a TAME version of what really happened. The Nazi party and their associates committed far worse atrocities than what you see depicted in this lego scene.

    Personally, I don’t think we should ever limit ourselves to certain “appropriate” themes/topics in our expression, whether that be with legos or paint or …..? Art is supposed to “go there,” to challenge who we are and what we think. You are supposed to have a reaction…. its what you do with that reaction that matters.

  10. Thanel

    The sterile quality of this MOC gets at one of the most horrifying things about the holocaust, which was how clinical & calculating it was. He also works in the way other prisoners were forced to participate in the horrors. The fence, feel & shower building are all very well done w/ both internal stylistic consistency & faithfulness to the real deal. The bottom line is I’m fine w/ this kind of build because of its restraint & leaving the viewer to draw larger conclusions.

    @ Cpt. Tom Foolery: Trivializing LEGO as a medium is the least of the problems w/ depictions of the holocaust.

    @ Luke: Why shouldn’t dramatization be used to make points about historical events?

    This type of conversation reminds me of a few of the questions people ask that tell me this sort of conversation, if not this build, is necessary.

    Q: Why are there showers in the concentration camp?
    A: It’s a gas chamber. And yes, there were actual showers in the camps to keep typhus & other epidemics down so the maximum man-hours of work could be extracted from prisoners before they died of exhaustion or were killed. Most camps were work camps w/ a section for execution, less than half a dozen camps were pure extermination camps.

    Q: I’m a big WWII fan/buff, why hasn’t LEGO made a WWII play theme?
    A: Because LEGO is a Danish company & most of their market base is still in countries that either attacked (like Germany) or were attacked (like Denmark) during WWII. War play in America is a way of honoring veterans who served in mostly far away wars. In Europe & E. Asia these wars flattened cities killing not just bro, dad and/or grandad, but also mom, grandma, brother Timmy and WWI vet grandpa. It wasn’t play, kid.

  11. Capt. Thomas Foolery


    With regards to your comment directed at me, I couldn’t disagree with you more. With regards to DEPICTIONS of the Holocaust (or any sensitive event), it is of fundamental concern whether the medium itself is deemed as inappropriate or trivializing the event it depicts, which this portrayal raised the question of. There have been many depictions of the Holocaust. This MOC, however, brought up the issue of whether it was appropriate to depict such events in bricks.

    You missed the entire point of my comment if you thought I was subsuming the importance or depiction of the Holocaust to whether I felt LEGO is trivialized or not. It’s an issue of whether you’re willing to accept LEGO bricks as a medium capable of artistic expression. If so, then there is no reason why a MOC should not depict sensitive or difficult subject material any more so than any other artistic medium.

  12. LordExxos

    First and foremost, it captures the scene a great deal better than the horrendous attempt of Konzentrationslager. It is powerful, well-designed, well-photographed, and does not look like it was slapped together.

    As for how it makes me feel, I look at children buying lego and am repulsed and angered. I come from the mindset where lego is no longer a child’s toy and most of the people who actually appreciate it are in their late teens at the youngest. So I do not have the “Death camp represented in a child’s toy” spin on it, but rather that it fits into a more mature model building aspect. That said, the imagery both sickens and fascinates me. It says to me that someone wanted to portray a powerful scene of an awful event in the medium of his choice: lego.

    It fits into the military building scene in that WWII was one of the most powerful events in recent Human history, overshadowing much of everything around it, and was full of innovations in design. So along with all of the submarines, tanks, and battlefront scenes, there is also this specter to deal with. I am actually surprised fewer people have done these types of things, it is disproportionate.

    As for subjects that shouldn’t be seen in lego? I think it is a free speech issue. Whatever you want to depict, do so. I don’t think that political topics (propaganda) or personalities, abortion, or rape should be depicted, but it is the builder’s right to do so.

  13. Creative Anarchy

    The Moc is well structured and utilizes the absense of color very well. Areas of contrast draw the eye and build emphasis. That big black open door has an increadibly haunting quality because of the lack of features. Small details such as the wear of snow patches where people would often walk or figure postures are exceptional. Like with all good modelling I find myself wishing there were more pictures.

    I don’t believe this MoC is making stating an opinion so much as presenting an opportunity for opinion among it’s viewers. It’s most controversial statement is one supported by historical documentation. But then I was a fan of the MoCs/Pieces that proceded this. I feel that the use of Lego pieces doesn’t demean the subject matter but instead makes it easier to look at. The pieces are commonplace to most humans in our generations, the surreality dulls the emotional response of the photographs we’ve already seen of such camps and allows us to process the events without flinching.

    Lastly I too resent the catagorization of Lego as a child’s toy, if you haven’t heard me soapbox about it before. I don’t like a hobby I take seriously being treated as though it were a childish pursuit by those who lack the skill to do as much as a child can with it. MoCs like this obviously force others to review their opinion about what can be done with Lego and it’s value not just as a learning toy but as a teaching one.

  14. Apocalust

    I am confused about the resentment of Lego as a children’s toy. Clay and crayons are a staple in a child’s life, and they have been used to produce remarkable works of art and profound statements about humanity as a whole. How does Lego being categorized as a child’s toy make it any less serious? Many artists use toys and toy culture in their work. I think anyone who considers the use of toys in artwork as childish is holding on to some outdated notions about maturity, and the ever evolving world around them.

  15. Starwars4J

    LEGO is a children’s toy. That much is without possible debate. However there are those of us who use the children’s toy to make something much more with it. Of course it doesn’t HAVE to be used to make any grandiose statement, as long as it’s fun and satisfying to the builder. It’s a hobby for some and a business for others, but ultimately it is a children’s toy being used in a variety of strange and wonderful ways by adults. And that’s fine.

  16. Capt. Thomas Foolery

    First, I would debate that LEGO is no longer just a children’s toy. In the past, I might argue that it was, but not now when sets are marketed to adults and with the recommended age groups of 16 on the boxes.

    Second, I don’t understand how Apocalust can be confused about the resentment. True, artists may work in clay, but they are doing something totally different with it than a child. Same with crayon (though crayon art would tend to border on the rarer side of use amongst adult artists). The resentment results from the fact that the vast majority of the public associates LEGO strictly as a child’s toy and very few are open to the possibility that it can represent or create true art. I’m sure that conventions help to dissuade its attendees from such erroneous notions, but overall it still carries the stigma of being a child’s toy and thus, not something to be taken seriously. But you’re exactly right in your conclusion, Apocalust, people are holding on to outdated notions and engaging in very strict, categorical modes of thinking.

    Sorry to keep coming back to this, but I don’t think it is going off topic. After all, Andrew asked if there are certain subjects that should never be depicted in LEGO. The whole debate on artistic expression and the (mis)categorization of LEGO pertains directly to that answer, I hope.

    I’ve enjoyed the discussion and exchange of ideas. Thanks.

  17. Herman

    I have no problem with this. Lego bricks can be used to build anything, including this. A lot of people use Lego to build more adult stuff, the apocalypse Lego isn’t children’s material as well. The fact that this actually happened doesn’t change it, it even justifies it more.

    There’s no reason to build only happy happy things with Lego.

  18. noble berean

    First, how many of us have appreciate the expertise and subject matter of “The Brick Testament”?

    It is (more or less) factually correct, yet deals with a much more potentially offensive subject matter, USUALLY with a serious consideration of the story. Obviously, this is debateable; but if the God of the universe if “fair game,” as well as the historicity of the most accurate book of antiquity (historically speaking, with numbers of manuscript copies, the Bible often being used for cross-reference of other societies for achaeological purposes, etc), the historical subject matter of the Holocaust is “fair game.”

    Second, I personally have made for my facebook profile pic a rendering of Saint Nicholas’ story of raising 3 murdered children from the dead…a VERY uncomfortable story, with some (arguably) factual basis.

    However, one should consider the “forum” in which such pictures are “aired” …

  19. noble berean

    Furthermore, one should consider whether violence and murder is put “in its place.”

    Consider the Bible or the movie “Rob Roy” (played by Liam Nieson).
    Both included some HORRIFIC violence, rape, killing, murder (the 2 ARE different terms for a reason)…yet neither GLORIFY the violence, etc.

    Contrast them with a Quentin Tarantino film, where the violence IS GLORIFIED, shown in great detail, purposely to shock and get a certain reaction.

    I am not “holier than thou” in pretending I don’t enjoy violence glorified and justified in an occasional Western film, I am simply pointing out the motivation is different, and much more suspect when the violence is glorified or justified.

  20. Catsy

    Capt Thomas Foolery: Essentially, I suppose it boils down to whether we consider what we’re doing as artistic expression, or just playing with plastic bricks.

    This. This, here, is the heart of it.

    The logical implication of the objections to using Lego–indisputably, yes, a building toy for children–to depict scenes of this gravity and horror is that not only is Lego a children’s toy, but that it is only a children’s toy.

    I reject that premise. It trivializes Lego and what it is capable of in the right hands. Are we really still at the point where it’s reasonable to dispute that Lego is an artistic medium?

    If we accept Lego as art, we have to accept that some people will express things with that art that are uncomfortable. The Shoah is among the most uncomfortable of subjects, and this is an uncomfortable MOC.

    But it is very, very good.

  21. Thanel

    @ LordExxos: “As for how it makes me feel, I look at children buying lego and am repulsed and angered.” That may be the funniest thing I’ve read in weeks.

    @ Cpt. Tom: I got the first point that you don’t think the LEGO medium trivialized the holocaust. You’re not alone. What I don’t get is why so many people, not just you, keep coming back to & spending most of their writing effort on is the subject of trivializing LEGO as a medium. You seem to take issue w/ my characterization of your first post as such, but I see 1/2 paragraph dedicated to the 1st point (well made) & 2 1/2 paragraphs & 2 whole additional comments dedicated to the 2nd point. And why were you arguing w/ Apocalust when he was making the same point as you, just from a different angle?

    I have yet to see anybody here demean LEGO as a medium, only repeatedly come to its defense. Am confused. I understand that people are trying to argue (against whom? I have no clue) that portrayal of LEGO doesn’t trivialize, demean or dishonor the memory of the holocaust. But it’s a little disturbing that the rhetorical point where several people keep getting their records skipping is that it would be a tragedy for LEGO to be trivialized. Really?!? Now that’s messed up. Lighten up on the toys. Not so much on the holocaust.

    On the horror scale: Genocide > LEGO isn’s a valid artistic medium.

  22. Catsy

    Genocide > LEGO isn’s a valid artistic medium.

    Why does this have to be a zero-sum equation?

    The degree to which one objects to trivializing Lego as an artistic medium is not connected to the degree of horror one feels about the Holocaust. It is possible for one to increase or decrease without affecting what one feels about the other.

    Some people are arguing, in effect, that because Lego is a children’s toy it is inappropriate to use it to depict disturbing or adult subjects–or perhaps, depending on the person, that it is inappropriate to use it to depict this subject.

    Objecting to this argument isn’t making any kind of comparison between genocide and the trivialization of Lego. It’s pointing out that Lego is an artistic medium as well as a toy, and that reacting to works like this as if they were out of line because they use a toy as their medium is trivializing Lego as art by effectively saying that it can only be a toy, not art.

  23. Catsy

    I have yet to see anybody here demean LEGO as a medium, only repeatedly come to its defense.

    Actually, I need to add to this. I don’t think anyone here intended to demean Lego as a medium. But the argument that this MOC is inappropriate does demean it as a medium, by placing some subjects off-limits and asserting that this is because it’s a kid’s toy–with the unwritten, perhaps unintended implication that this is all it’s allowed to be.

  24. The Newb

    I actually made an account just to post on this… First off, “I look at children buying Lego’s and am repulsed and angered”… Good Lord man, have you never read a “Lego club”(or whatever it’s called ;) magazine? This brings about my second point. I believe that Lego has, is, and always will be a kids toy. However, adults make a hobbie out of serious building. The same goes for model airplanes. there are some very advanced kits, but a model plane is really just a toy, no matter how complex.

    Back to the main topic, let me use an example. An artist can draw a very graphic and emotional picture with a pencil and a page. The same tools that a child might use to draw simple dogs, cats etc. An adult and a kid can make very different statments with the same pencil, paint, clay, or brick. As Apacolust said, even crayons can be used despite the fact that they are almost exclusivly played with by kiddos.

    As to the creators intent, does it really matter? As long as he wasn’t trying to glorify Nazi-ism in a really sick way, I think that everyone will agree that fanatical, violent, and discriminatory groups are evil. Wether he built it to honour the dead and the survivors, or to try to bring awarness to a historical event, or just as an experiment, it was his choice.

  25. Capt. Thomas Foolery

    @ Thanel

    I was going to pen a lengthy response to your comment (you’re welcome that it didn’t occur), but Catsy beat me to it. Not only did Catsy say what I wanted to, but did so much more eloquently. Thank you, Catsy.

    What is frustrating about your responses, Thanel, is that you keep taking exception with this line of logic that seems to suggest I find the portrayal/trivialization of LEGO more important than the Holocaust itself. Are we not allowed to examine the intersections of art, LEGO, the Holocaust, and depictions of difficult subjects unless I focus on how atrocious the Holocaust is (which obviously, no one is arguing against). You seem to want to focus strictly on the Holocaust, yet this is a site about LEGO and its various modes of portrayal, and when I focus on LEGO and its capacity to depict such subjects then you seem to want to fault me for not going on and on about the Holocaust.

    Need I remind you that Andrew posed the question: “Are there certain subjects that should never be depicted in LEGO? If so, what are they, and why?” My responses take exception with this question (not saying it’s a bad question, because it’s led to a great discussion) because it presupposes that LEGO is a medium outside the accepted spectrum of what constitutes art. Otherwise, we’d have to make a much larger argument about whether art in general should have restrictions imposed upon it.

    And to clarify, I wasn’t “arguing” with Apocalust at all. I agree with his ideas. I just couldn’t figure out why he didn’t understand the resentment when we shared essentially the premise – that people, i.e. the general public, are too caught up in rigid categorizations of what LEGO is and can do.

  26. Starwars4J

    Dear Captain Tom Foolery,

    No one here has demeaned LEGO as a medium. Any objection to Holocaust imagery being portrayed with children’s building blocks (which is what we’re dealing with here, let’s not delude ourselves) is not to dismiss the possible wonderful things that can be done with the medium, but do so due to the idea that such horror could be made using toys made for children to play with. Now we’ve almost unanimously come to the agreement (hard to believe such a thing is possible on the internet) that such an idea is silly, as it goes along with any other tasteful depiction of historical events. Given this agreement, and the fact that we all recognize that we’re dealing with toys (which isn’t a bad thing, I don’t know why anyone would be offended by the idea), it makes your objections look rather silly.

    We don’t always need some stupid debate about something or other, why not just appreciate it for what it is and move on? I’m sure we’d all be a lot happier if you did that with us :)



  27. Capt. Thomas Foolery

    Thank you, Justin, for not only managing to be another person misinterpreting my point (I recommend you read Catsy’s last two replies – I think they sum it up nicely, particularly the last one with regards to demeaning LEGO as a medium) but for also calling the debate stupid and my objections silly. A more mature and intelligent argument I have yet to find.

    My recent objections have only been with Thanel’s interpretation of my comments, a misunderstanding of which I don’t need to go into again.

    I thought the purpose of the post was to open up discussions and get debate going or maybe I completely misinterpreted Andrew’s seemingly straightforward questions asking for just that – discussion. But I apologize my “stupid debate” is inconveniencing you and robbing you of happiness.

    I’ll gladly move on – to a forum where intellectual reasoning isn’t frowned upon.

    Yours truly,

  28. Andrew Post author

    Okay, boys and girls, let’s quit while we’re ahead.

    Following along (but not wanting to direct the discussion in any one direction), I’m surprised to find that we’re all actually in agreement. The “debate” seems to stem not from substantive disagreement but from miscommunication (I spot at least one missing “not”, for example) and misinterpretation of nuance — though I can read no malice into either.

    I’m certainly not going to lock comments, but can we agree to take a 24-hour breather and only post a new comment if we have something truly different to say?


  29. Magnus

    Thanks for highlighting this MOC and starting this discussion. A couple of points/thoughts.

    As MOCs go, this is pretty solid. Good work on the fences and the watchtower. The rest is basic but functional – I would have liked to see a little more terrain elevation. But plenty of thought provoking details.
    The fact that it is so clean though (with an innocent trail of smoke curling out the chimney), does make it all the more thought provoking.

    Is a LEGO MOC depicting the Holocaust good or bad? Well, is a painting of, or a song about the Holocaust good or bad. It depends. LEGO is a medium, and can be used with varying degrees of skill and with varying motivations in mind. I can’t see anything about this MOC at first glance to suggest it is trying to trivialize, mock, or celebrate what happened.

    Is there something about LEGO as a medium (its association with children and being a toy) that makes its statement different than other mediums? I say that depends a lot on who is using it and why they used it. An AFOL whose main creative medium is LEGO is doing something else than an artist who uses many forms of creativity and chooses LEGO for a particular piece of artwork. Similarly, if there was a picture of a concentration camp drawn in bright crayon, wouldn’t you regard that one way if it had been drawn by an 8 year old, and another way if it had been rendered by an adult artist?

    Was this rendered in brick because the creator wanted to make a statement by using LEGO, or was it rendered in brick because that’s generally how the creator depicts things visually.

  30. Thanel

    @ Catsy & Cpt Tom: I really do feel bad about how the exchange devolved. I had no intention or desire to shut down or upset. I understood & agree w/ your substance, simply took exception to a matter of rhetorical emphasis.

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