Artist's Work Brings Holocaust Victims 'Back to Life'

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Thursday, the world remembers the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust. It was this day in 1945 that the last of Adolf Hitler's Auschwitz death camps were liberated.

The United Nations started International Holocaust Remembrance Day six years ago in response to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, rejecting his denial that the Holocaust really happened.

Now more than 60 years later, one artist has made it her mission to never forget. Dr. Pat Mercer Hutchens, professor and accomplished artist, has used oil paintings to give life to those lost in the Holocaust. View some of Dr. Mercer Hutchens' paintings here.

The Jewish men, women, and children were despised and rejected, dragged from their homes, crammed into cattle-cars, and condemned to death at Auschwitz.

Those gut-wretching images are too horrific to imagine. Black and white photos from the death camp had been tucked away in an album -- until now.

"I thought, what if that was me? What if those were my children?" Hutchens recalled when she first looked at those images. "And then I thought what it would mean to me if someday or somebody would know. And they didn't think anybody would ever know. They were going to die by the millions and nobody would ever know."

Hutchens is behind the Auschwitz Album Revisited. It is a collection of 28 oil paintings motivated by the only surviving photographic evidence of Hitler's largest death camp.

"I went through and as they struck me, I thought I'm going to paint them, I'm going to paint 12," she said. "I was really naïve. As I got 12, I thought that was nothing."

Her oil paintings focused on the Holocaust's most fragile victims.

"Mostly the women and children," Hutchens said. "I was stunned because those children were killed within an hour, maybe two as soon as they got there - as soon as they got to Auschwitz. They looked like my own children"

Women were stripped and humiliated. Innocence was lost. Hutchens said her art was a task divinely appointed.

"I knew exactly what God said to me, 'Stop what you're doing and paint these paintings,'" she said. "Then I said, 'Lord, what am I going to do with them?' And I sensed the Lord say, 'You just paint. I'll handle the other.'"

Her work was daunting but it is something that Hutchens said she would do again to honor the one million lives lost.

"Sometimes I would cry," Hutchens said. "I always prayed. I started dreaming that I would find some child and I'd try to bring it back to life. I told my husband that I kept dreaming this and he said, 'Well that's what you're doing.'"

The paintings are on display at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va., in time for International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

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