Emile Franken’s testimony in Cartoon form.

A picture tells a thousand words, and in this case they really do, The drawings and cartoon are made by Emile Franken. I am not sure what happened to Emile. I do know he was born on April 15,1921, somewhere in the Netherlands.

I also know he spent time in Vught concentration camp, and from there he was transported to Westerbork on October 18,1943. After that he must have been deported to Auschwitz Birkenau, because his art is about Birkenau. The caption of the drawing at the top of the blog says “`Breaktime at the planes Birkenau’ Auschwitz Birkenau (concentration camp).”

`Life in Lower Birkenau Poland 1944 Latrine at Night in Block.’ Auschwitz Birkenau (Concentration camp).

`Arrival and transport in Birkenau , Selection for crematorium, The last clothes are taken away, Hair cutting”

I don’t know if Emile survived, I doubt it very much but his drawings make his experiences crystal clear. I suppose nowadays the could be called memes, but memes are supposed to be funny or satirical, There is nothing funny about these, they portray pure reality.


The song is over. The Curtain has fallen.

Mordechai Santilhano was a Dutch Jewish performing artist. He was born on January 11,1905. He was murdered on in or near Auschwitz on October 12.1944. He used the artist name Max Santiel or simply Oom Max-Uncle Max.

I could say quite a lot about him, but I have decided to leave his own words tell his story of his last days. The title of the blog was taken from the last letter he wrote to his friends.

Ventriloquist “Uncle Max” wrote a last letter to the couple (“Toon and Truus”) with whom he was friends and where he had previously been in hiding. Max and Toon were both artists and had performed together – this is what Max refers to when he talks about the “business side”. There is no date on the letter. Below is a translation of the transcript.

Dear Toon and Truus!

For the first time in all that time I pick up my pen to pour out my heart to you because this is not possible by phone. Now it finally happened that I no longer can come to you, because prior to this the only possibility was by bicycle. Which I don’t have. I am not allowed to borrow one either t from anyone and there is also no one who can help me with their bicycle. What now…….. You know how my nerves are back at me again, although I do everything to stay in control, now my drive in the field of my life force is gone too because, yes, I always have enjoyed freedom with you, devoured ! It was no longer food, I almost choked. Lovely valued Truus Toon I remain grateful to your hospitality..We sometimes had different opinions, but that is the case in every family. And you Toon always said that you treated me like your eldest son, but aside from those litlle arguments , you made me hiccup many times! So that I fell down. Truus made me feast on her fine cooking skills! This is in recognition of our friendship.

Now the business side what you want to .Continue to do what your heart tells you to, and act thinking how you would treat me, I only wish that which you cannot justify yourself, but also always think of my good and honest companionship, this you thought of me at all times. I don’t know how it goes, but I now feel compelled to also give a rating on paper because the light goes out so gently, but a light still shines and this still gives me strength and that is the sun, they cannot take it away from us! Let me seek my strength here, although much more strength was in your kidney bean soup and ham. When again! Well, dear fellows, excuse me for being such an old man again, you know, but this time you’ll allow it, won’t you? It gives me strength, I will call, but I can’t say much in the receiver!
My door is open to you!!
and hope for the best!!
health to you all your friend,




Artist as Witness-The Holocaust Art of David Friedmann in Lodz Ghetto.

The last few weeks I had the privilege, to have been been invited to several on line presentations, organised by the Ghetto Fighters’ House.

The last two presentations were about the art of David Friedman and were presented by David’s daughter Miriam. I am also privileged to know Miriam.

David Friedmann (David Friedman, Dav. Friedmann) was an accomplished artist long before World War II and the Holocaust. As each of his options narrowed, he continued to produce art illustrating the events and personal experiences of his time. In December 1938, David fled from Berlin to Prague, escaping with only his artistic talent as a means to survive. In October 1941, he was deported to the Lodz Ghetto, then to camps Auschwitz-Birkenau and Gleiwitz I. He survived a Death March to Camp Blechhammer in Upper Silesia, where he was liberated on January 25, 1945 by the Red Army. He defied all odds to survive at the age of 51 years and paint again. His burning desire was to show the world the ruthless persecution, torment, and agony as practiced by the Nazis, in the hope that such barbarism would never happen again. In 1949, he fled Stalinist Czechoslovakia to Israel and later immigrated to the United States.

David Friedmann (1893-1980) depicted human fate as a refugee in Prague, as a prisoner in the Lodz Ghetto, in the Auschwitz subcamp Gleiwitz I, and as a survivor. During his three years in the Ghetto, he absorbed the unending misery he witnessed. With death before his eyes, through hunger and sickness, he worked strenuously on a series of artwork documenting the infernal daily struggle of the prisoners’ desperate situation. He wrote and illustrated a diary to publish at war’s end. He felt that, unless one had lived it, no one would believe the brutal inhumanity against the Jews. His art and diary would be his testimony, but they were destroyed. Torn out from his memory he produced a new art series to show to the world in the hope that such barbarism would never happen again.

David Friedmann’s (1893-1980) life’s work was Nazi-looted: oil paintings, watercolors, drawings, etchings and lithographs. From childhood, his daughter, Miriam Friedman Morris was drawn into her father’s epic life story, learning about his passion for art, his Holocaust experiences, and strong will to survive. Friedmann’s pursuit of justice inspired her quest to search for his lost art. With each new find, she gained insights into his life, an extraordinary view of his productive career amidst the rich, cultural life before Hitler. Each and every artwork tells a story, documents an event or captures the essence of a moment lost in time. Friedmann continues to live after his death via the passionate insistence of his art to emerge and be rescued from obscurity. In this fourth and final program in the series “Crafting Heritage: The Art of Holocaust Remembrance – A Homage to David Friedmann”, Miriam discusses with Liz Elsby her personal journey, which she calls a treasure hunt, in search of her father’s legacy. Like a love letter between a father and a daughter, she, as the daughter of survivors, second generation, has taken upon herself to commemorate her father and his artwork. We can all learn from David Friedman’s artwork, his diaries, his life-long career as an artist, but, as we saw in today’s program, we have a lot to learn through Miriam’s personal journey, about keeping the memory alive; passing on a family legacy to the world, and making that human connection that was tried and tested during the Holocaust, but never abandoned, as we have seen in this series through art and culture.




O Superman

Every so often I do deviations on my usual heavy historical blogs. This will be one of those deviations.

It is really about one song. A song that really should never have become a hit for more then one reason. Yet it did, and also became one of my all time favourite songs.

“O Superman”, aka “O Superman (For Massenet)”, is a 1981 song by performance artist and musician Laurie Anderson. The song became a surprise hit in the United Kingdom after it was championed by DJ John Peel, rising to #2 on the UK Singles Charts in 1981.Prior to the success of this song, Anderson was little known outside the art world. First released as a single, the song also appeared on her debut album Big Science (1982)

“O Superman” begins with a fast vocal riff — “ah ah ah” — that establishes itself as the song’s rhythm, a constant Reichian pulse. Anderson narrates the story, more speech than singings, her voice fed through a vocoder like an accompanying choir of an infinity of robots. Roma Baran, her producer, throws in a series of minimal patterns on a cheap Casio keyboard that both brighten and cheapen the sound, and lets darkening chords rumble underneath as the lyrics become more and more disquieting.

Not only did the song have a bizarre structure, it also was more then 8 minutes long.

But the lyrics to it are cheer genius.

“O Superman.
O judge.
O Mom and Dad.
Mom and Dad.
O Superman.
O judge.
O Mom and Dad.
Mom and Dad.
I’m not home right now.
But if you want to leave a message, just start talking at the sound of the tone.
This is your Mother.
Are you there?
Are you coming home?
Is anybody home?
Well, you don’t know me, but I know you.
And I’ve got a message to give to you.
Here come the planes.
So you better get ready.
Ready to go.
You can come as you are, but pay as you go.
Pay as you go.
And I said: OK.
Who is this really?
And the voice said: This is the hand, the hand that takes.
This is the hand, the hand that takes.
This is the hand, the hand that takes.
Here come the planes.
They’re American planes.
Made in America.
Smoking or non-smoking?
And the voice said: Neither snow nor rain nor gloom of night shall stay these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.
‘Cause when love is gone, there’s always justice. And when justive is gone, there’s always force. And when force is gone, there’s always Mom.
Hi Mom!
So hold me, Mom, in your long arms.
So hold me, Mom, in your long arms.
In your automatic arms.
Your electronic arms.
In your arms.
So hold me, Mom, in your long arms.
Your petrochemical arms.
Your military arms.
In your electronic arms.”





David Friedmann;painting to survive-My interview with his daughter Miriam.

David Friedmann’s story is not just a story of dealing with the horrors of the Holocaust but also a story of a second chance and hopes despite immense grief and hardships.

The artist David Friedmann was born in Mährisch Ostrau, Austria (now Ostrava, Czech Republic), but moved to Berlin in 1911. In 1944, Friedman was separated from his wife and daughter, never seeing them again, and was transferred to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Friedman survived his internment at the extermination camp. After the war he married fellow survivor Hildegard Taussig. After living in Israel for five years, the family immigrated to the United States in 1954, eventually becoming citizens and settling in St. Louis, where he worked as a commercial artist for an advertising company, later retiring in 1962

But rather me telling his story ,it is much better if this story is told by someone who was very close to him. His daughter Miriam Friedman Morris.

I had some email correspondence with Miriam before the interview and had asked her a few questions. I would like to share her answers

I would like to know though how he felt from being a decorated artist during WW1 and a well established and a renowned artist in Berlin, to having to flee his adopted hometown in 1938 because of the rise of Nazism?

David Friedmann’s talent for portraiture played a central role throughout his career and saved his life during the Holocaust. His art weaves a tapestry of the joys and horrors he experienced, witnessed, and chronicled. My father’s works are imbued with an added sense of historical accuracy, one made all the more resonate by his firsthand experience of some of the most important events in the 20th century. Numerous catastrophic interruptions took him away from his art. David Friedman painted for his life—from the trenches of World War I, under threat of Nazi SS officers and through his postwar journey from Czechoslovakia to Israel and finally, the United States. His work exemplifies defiance in the face of persecution, loss and tragedy. His art would not be silent. My father’s artwork shines a light on a dynamic life crushed by the Nazis and his indomitable inner strength to paint again.

What kept him going even after his first wife and child had been murdered?

My father wrote a diary for me when I was born. He begins with the loss of his wife and child. He had to overcome his crippling grief to build a new life. I turned the pages and saw carefully placed photos and newspaper articles in-between text with pointing arrows. He wrote about his first postwar art exhibition in Jan. 1946 and befriending a young woman named Hildegard Taussig. I learned the courageous stories of two heroes, my mother and father.

Undoubtedly he used his art as a way of therapy, but aside of his art did he talk about the horrors he witnessed to you and your mother?

No, for my father, it was too painful. He had locked his feelings in a kind of jail and closed the door. My mother told some info about my father’s first family, but mostly I learned about his life from his art. After my father’s death, my father’s diary was transcribed. I learned a great deal more about his life and even found clues to help in the search for lost artwork. The lost pieces of a renowned painter and graphics artist confirm the brilliant career the Nazis could not destroy.

After his retirement from commercial art in the early 1960’s, he returned to the Holocaust. Disturbed by the fact that people were forgetting the Holocaust, my father believed it was his obligation to make an indelible statement to all humankind. He wanted to impress upon their consciousness the ruthless persecution, torment, and atrocities practiced by the Nazis, so that it would never happen again. His tortured recollections would be transferred to paper and show the dehumanization and suffering of the Jew under Nazi rule. There would be no imagery or symbolism; his art would show the reality that only a victim could produce.

“I wish everyone had to take a good look at the artwork. They have to look at what persecution under the Nazi regime was, and it can happen again, for in America to be a Nazi, to be a Communist is not prohibited. Against an evil world I will work further and try to put my feelings down on canvas or paper against antisemitism, against race hatred of all people.”

Some of the paintings of ” the Because They Were Jews!” exhibition haunt me and are very powerful.

This is the response my father would have wanted to never forget the Holocaust”

On August 29,1944 David Friedmann was put on a transport from Lodz to Auschwitz Birkenau.

Painting by David Friedmann(courtesy of Miriam Friedman Morris)

It is the duty of all of us to never forget the Holocaust, because it can so easily happen again.







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Art from a Limerick Artist.


Wild swans at Castle Oaks’ Oil on canvas. Scenes from Ireland. By Louise Harrison.









Holocaust art by a survivor.

priest and rabbi

David Olère  was a  Jewish Polish-born French painter and sculptor best known for his explicit drawings and paintings based on his experiences as a Jewish Sonderkommando inmate at Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.

He began to draw at Auschwitz-Birkenau during the last days of the camp, when the SS became less attentive. His work has an invaluable as evidence  documentary: there are no photos of what happened in the gas chambers and crematoria

Below are just some of his paintings. I believe they speak for themselves.

Arrival of a Convoy


Their Last Steps


Selection for Gas Chambers


the Remains of Children


The last one hit me hard.



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Starry Night-Vincent.


So many books have been written about the tormented artist,Vincent van Gogh , so there is no way I can add anything to his story.

My focus in this blog is about an event that took place this day, July 27th, 1890.

On 27 July 1890, aged 37, Van Gogh shot himself in the chest with a 7mm Lefaucheux à broche revolver.


No one had witnessed the act and he died 30 hours after the incident.It is assumed the shooting took place in the wheat field in which he had been painting, or a local barn.The bullet was deflected by a rib and passed through his chest without doing apparent damage to internal organs – probably stopped by his spine. He was able to walk back to the Auberge Ravoux, where he was attended to by two doctors, but without a surgeon present the bullet could not be removed. The doctors tended to him as best they could, then left him alone in his room, smoking his pipe. The following morning Theo rushed to his brother’s side, finding him in good spirits. But within hours Vincent began to fail, suffering from an untreated infection resulting from the wound. He died in the early hours of 29 July. According to Theo, Vincent’s last words were: “The sadness will last forever”.

Van Gogh was distraught about his future because, in May of that year, his brother Theo had visited and spoke to him about needing to be stricter with his finances. Van Gogh took that to mean Theo was no longer interested in selling his art.

Vincent van Gogh died in the arms of his brother.


Such a tragic life.

Starry night


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Mona Lisa smiles, but was she happy?

Mona Lisa

One of the most famous paintings, if not the most famous painting is the Mona Lisa,painted by Leonardo da Vinci.

In 1503 or 1504 Leonardo da Vinci was commissioned to paint Lisa del Giocondo (nee Gherardini), the painting became known as the Mona Lisa. Aged 15, real-life Lisa Gherardini married Florentine merchant Francesco del Giocondo. a modestly successful cloth and silk merchant, becoming his third wife. Lisa’s dowry( the money, goods, or estate that a woman brings to her husband or his family in marriage)was 170 florins and the San Silvestro farm near her family’s country home.

Francesco del Giocondo,regularly bought girls from North Africa and converted them to Christianity with many working as maids at the del Giocondo household. However there would have been too many to work in the household, it is therefor very likely he sold some of the girls as slaves.


Lisa’s sister Camilla,  who was a nun, caused a scandal when she and some other nuns were accused of allowing four men to touch them indecently.

I wonder how much reasons did Lisa have to smile.


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Martin Kemp and Giuseppe Pallanti: Mona Lisa: The People and The Painting.







The Suitcase


A suitcase has a significant meaning , it indicates a change, often temporary and sometimes for an extended time, but no one ever expects the symbol of the end of a life.

Many songs have the word suitcase in their lyrics and it is often in a sad context like in the Beatles son Lady Madonna the line says “Friday night arrives without a suitcase” indicating yet another weekend has come still trying to make ends meet, without getting a break.

But a suitcase can also bring excitement for there is an imminent journey, heading to perhaps exotic places. A break from the daily grind, time to refresh yourself.Or it can signify a new start beginning.

suitcase 2

The Nazi’s had one plan for the Jews and one plan only they referred to it as ‘die Endlösung” or “Final Solution”, the eradication of all Jews.But just killing them wasn’t good enough they also had to be humiliated. They were also given false hope. They were told they were going to be resettled to the east, where they would have a ‘new beginning’.

All they could take though was one suitcase, they were instructed to mark their suitcases for later identification..

I have thought about this , what would I take if I was told I could take only 1 suitcase?. I would pack some clothes but above everything else I would pack things which were dear to me, photographs, keepsakes of family members,heirlooms and in my case also music.

I am sure that most people would pack similar things.Many Jews also believed they would return to their homes after the nightmare which was World War 2 was over, they didn’t know they would end up in an even worse nightmare . the holocaust, and they would never see their belongings or loved ones again for they were murdered often in the most brutal way possible. And even for those who survived their belongings would have been spread all over the world, the Nazis made sure of that.

They had special units who were tasked and specialized in stealing all belongings of the Jews and emptying the homes of Jews. Units like the Reichsleiter Rosenberg Taskforce.

seal 2

The stolen art would end up in places like Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume in Paris, which was used by the likes of Hermann Göring as an art Supermarket where he could go in and take whatever he fancied, without paying anything for it. He didn’t even mind taking the so called Degenerate art.


His henchman ,the art dealer Bruno Lohse, would ensure to get a good price for the stolen goods making himself and Göring wealthy men. Unlike Göring who committed suicide before he could be sentenced, Lohse would live a long and comfortable life, he died in 2007 aged 95. A few weeks after his death in May 2007, the seizure of a secret Zurich bank vault registered to Schönart Anstalt ( which had been under Lohse’s control since 1978) turned up a valuable Camille Pissarro painting stolen by the Gestapo from the Fischer family in 1938 when they fled the Nazis and left Vienna, as well as paintings of uncertain provenance by Monet and Renoir.


Still to this day stolen jewelry,art and furniture is showing up and sold on antique markets all over Germany and other European countries.

Even the possibility to pass family belongings to future generations was denied to those who were murdered in the concentration camps and the death camps, often all that remains to remind us that they even existed is a suitcase with a name written on it.



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