Death Camp Diary

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We might have been able to get out of it, but we didn’t want to. Since we’re in it, we’re going. In this case it’s best to leave things as you find them. We’ve been allowed to take all our luggage—a good sign. Maybe they were right and we’re following the men. I’m looking forward to it; perhaps I’ll see Dad by the end of the day.

The above words were from Helga Weiss, (born 1929) is a Czech artist, and a Holocaust survivor. Raised in Prague, on December 4, 1941 she and her parents were interned in the Terezin ghetto.

In October 1944, aged 15, she and her mother were moved to Auschwitz. As new victims arrived, they were sorted… sent to the left for the ovens, right to live longer. The person sorting that day may have been the infamous Josef Mengele.Whoever it was, Helga convinced him she was old enough to live longer, claiming to be 18, and was told to go to the rightShe also successfully claimed that her mother was younger than she really was.

She kept a diary, in words and pictures, and when she and her mother were sent on to Auschwitz in 1944, her uncle hid the diary in a brick wall for safekeeping.Her pictures tell the compelling story of life in the death camps.

Snowman, December 1941: ‘The first picture I made in Terezin. I smuggled it to my father in the men’s barracks and he wrote back: ‘Draw what you see!’

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The Transport of Polish Children, 29 August 1943. Helga Weiss recalls: ‘These children arrived in deplorable condition and were quarantined the whole time in Terezin. They were supposed to be sent to Switzerland but ended up in Auschwitz.

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Waiting Room of the Emergency Clinic, 26 July 1943. ‘Due to the poor living conditions, the waiting room was always full.’

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The Dormitory in the Barracks at Terezin, 1942. ‘There are 21 of us in quite a small room. Mum and I have 1.20 square metres.

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No explanation needed.

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For Her 14th Birthday, November 1943. ‘A picture for my friend Francka. We were born in the same maternity home, shared a bunk and became best friends in Terezin. We imagined what it would be like in 14 years – in 1957 – when we were both mothers and could go for walks in Prague. Francka died in Auschwitz before her 15th birthday.’

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ART IN THE FACE OF THE HOLOCAUST-Part 2

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Degenerate art was a term adopted by the Nazi regime in Germany to describe Modern art. Such art was banned on the grounds that it was un-German, Jewish, or Communist in nature, and those identified as degenerate artists were subjected to sanctions. These included being dismissed from teaching positions, being forbidden to exhibit or to sell their art, and in some cases being forbidden to produce art.

Degenerate Art also was the title of an exhibition, held by the Nazis in Munich in 1937, consisting of modernist artworks chaotically hung and accompanied by text labels deriding the art. Designed to inflame public opinion against modernism, the exhibition subsequently traveled to several other cities in Germany and Austria.

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Of course this also highlighted the stupidity of the Nazi ideology because some of these pieces of art were priceless. The only real degenerate artist was Adolf Hitler himself.

The painting at the top of this blog is ‘The Beach’ by Max Beckmann .Below are some further examples of “degenerate art” and also other art pieces created during the Holocaust.

A painting of Journalist Sylvia von Harden, by Otto Dix. Dated 1926

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Portrait of the Writer Max Hermann-Neisse” by George Grosz (1925).

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Bathers With A Turtle Henri Matisse

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Vincent van Gogh’s work found itself under Nazi scrutiny due to his Expressionist influences. The distorted swirls and cascading colors were too modern, thus making them too degenerate.

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Following are some drawings by Leo Yeni.

In fall 1943, Leo and his family fled north to the mountains near Varese, close to the Swiss border. His family decided that Leo should escape into Switzerland. He was apprehended and interrogated by the Swiss Police at the border and denied entry. With the aid of smugglers, he tried again. He was arrested and detained in a military cell in Lugano as an illegal alien. After reviewing his papers, a Swiss Captain told Leo that he was accepted as a refugee and he was interned in a detention camp. Leo was held in Unterwalden (Bellinzona), Plenterplatz in Zurich, and Lajoux in the Jura Bernoise. Through HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) and the Red Cross, Leo was able to contact a maternal relative, Rene Della Torre in the United States. Leo’s parents had been arrested by Italian Fascist police on December 6, 1943. They were jailed in Varese and then taken to Milan where they were deported by the Germans to Auschwitz concentration camp on January 30, 1944, and killed on February 6.

The war ended in May 1945. Leo resumed his education at L’Ecole d’Art in Switzerland. In July 1946, Leo emigrated from Le Chaux-de-Fonds, Neuchatel, Switzerland, to America aboard the Marine Flasher. He settled in New York and his relatives helped him find a job as a designer. Leo had a successful career as a textile designer. He was active in local artists’ organizations and his artwork was frequently exhibited. He later taught painting. He married Rose Baumoel (1917-1992) on January 20, 1947. Rose was a school teacher. The couple had two children. Leo became a naturalized citizen in 1949. Leo, 91, passed away on February 7, 2011.

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Ervin Abadi, a Hungarian Jew from Budapest, was an aspiring young artist when WWII began. He was drafted into the Hungarian labor service in the early 1940s. Abadi managed to escape, but was recaptured and immediately deported to Bergen-Belsen. When the camp was liberated, his condition was such that he required extended hospitalization. During his convalescence, he created dozens of works of holocaust art, including ink drawings, pencil and ink sketches and watercolors.
After recuperating Abadi returned to Budapest, where he published a collection of his watercolors in 1946. After becoming disillusioned with the communist regime in Hungary, he moved to Israel, where he continued to publish in Hungarian and Hebrew. He died in Israel in 1980. Below pictures are dated 1945.

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The annihilation of the artists but not the legacy.

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I am not saying I am a great lover of art but the fact that I am from a nation that has produced some of the greatest artist in history, probably means there is a bit or “artist” DNA in me.

During WWII many Jewish artists were butchered by the Nazi regime. What the Nazi’s didn’t envisage is that you can kill the artist but his legacy will live on, for they put their heart and soul in their work.

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The 2 paintings above were painted by Felix Nussbaum (11 December 1904 – 9 August 1944) was a German-Jewish surrealist painter. Nussbaum’s artwork gives a rare glimpse into the essence of one individual among the victims of the Holocaust.

1944 was the year in which the plans of Nazi Germany had the greatest impact on the Nussbaum family.  In July, Nussbaum and his wife were found hiding in an attic by German armed forces. They were arrested, sent to the Mechelen transit camp and given the numbers XXVI/284 and XXVI/285. On August 2 they arrived at Auschwitz, and a week later Felix was murdered at the age of 39.

In this time period, Nussbaum created two of his best-known works: Self Portrait with Jewish Identity Card (1943), and Triumph of Death

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Born in Warsaw, Poland (1884 – 1943),Although trained as an architect, Georges Ascher arrived in Paris in 1925 and devoted himself entirely to painting. Later, he moved with his family to the port town of La Ciotat where he mainly painted landscapes, still life compositions, and Jewish themes. Ascher exhibited at the Salon d’Automne of 1933..

In 1943, he was arrested and sent to the concentration camp of Gurs. Most of his work has since disappeared.

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Max Jacob

Born in Quimper (Brittany), France (1876 – 1944)

Poet, writer, art critic, and painter, Max Jacob passed through a religious crisis and converted to Catholicism in 1915. At his baptism, Picasso served as his godfather. In 1917, he published a collection of poems, and in 1921 retired to the Benedictine Abbey at St. Benoit sur L’Oise. In the following years, and particularly from 1926 well into the 1930s, Jacob’s creative output in the visual arts was at its peak. He exhibited regularly at the Percier and the Georges Petit Galleries.

Despite his conversion and entry into a monastery, Jacob was arrested and interned in Drancy, where he died on March 5, 1944.

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Joachim Weingart

Born in Drochobitch (Galicia), Poland (1895 – ?)

Joachim Weingart received a traditional Jewish education as well as a secular education. He studied at the Weimar School of Applied Arts in 1912 and later at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. He then moved to Berlin, where he worked with Archipenko for two years. After World War I, Weingart returned to Galicia, worked and exhibited in Lvov, and moved to Paris in 1925. In Paris, Weingart continued painting and exhibited his work in the official salons and in galleries, but he underwent a mental crisis that, no doubt, changed the course of his life and work. He spent two years in a mental hospital, where he created some of his finest works.

In April 1942, Joachim Weingart was interned in the camp of Pithiviers and was deported to Auschwitz on July 7, 1942.

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Jacques Cytrynovitch

Born in Odziwal, Poland (1893 – 1942)

Jacques Cytrynovitch received a traditional Jewish education as well as a vocational education. During World War I, he was interned in a coal mine by the Germans, but he subsequently participated in the November 1918 revolution in Berlin. Following the war, he moved to Paris in response to a long-standing invitation by Naum Arenson, who had met him before the war and encouraged him to come to Paris. Cytrynovitch worked with Arenson and Bourdelle, creating sculptures that were true to nature, with an inclination toward the monumental. He exhibited his work at the Salon d’Automne and in various galleries. Work by Cytrynovitch can be found in private collections and museums, including the Philadelphia Art Museum.

Cytrynovitch was arrested in July 1941 as he was trying to cross the demarcation line into southern France, which was still free. He was deported to Auschwitz, where he died on July 27, 1942.

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Moise (Moshe) Kogan

Born in Orgeiew (or Argeiur), Bessarabia (1879 – ?)

Moise Kogan was educated in the spirit of Jewish tradition, but in 1903 he enrolled in the Art Academy of Munich. In 1910, he moved to Paris, where he was both influenced and appreciated by Maillol. While exhibiting his work at the Salon d’Automne in 1925, Kogan was elected vice president of the sculpture committee, a remarkably unusual appointment for an émigré artist. Kogan also exhibited in other Parisian galleries, as well as in Berlin, Leipzig, Hamburg, Munich, and other German cities. Kogan made terracotta figurines and marble, wood, and limestone sculptures, which were very appealing to art lovers in Paris. He was also a master of woodcut, linocut, and lithography. He was interested in the Bible, Jewish history, and mysticism, as well as cultures of the East. His works can be found in museums and private collections in Europe, America, and Israel.

Kogan was arrested by the Vichy Police and interned in the concentration camp at Drancy. He was deported to a death camp on February 22, 1943.

A memorial exhibition of Kogan’s work was held at the Zak Gallery in Paris in 1947.

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Roman Kramsztyk

Born in Warsaw, Poland (1885 – 1942)

Roman Kramsztyk studied art in Munich from 1904-1908. “For 30 years – from [his] debut in the Warsaw Zachta [the Warsaw Society for the Encouragement of Fine Arts] in 1909 up to 1939 – Kramsztyk was one of the most important participants in Polish artistic life. Even though he had been living in Paris since 1911 (with an interlude during the years 1915-1922) and regularly presented his works at Salons (des Indépendants, Automne, and des Tuilleries), he had never broken ties with his homeland.”* Continuing to take part in Polish exhibitions (e.g. the First Exhibition of Polish Expressionists in Krakow, 1917 and the Exhibition of Polish Legions in Lublin, 1917), Kramsztyk “… was co-founder of the ‘Rytm’ Society of Polish Artists – one of the most important artistic groups of the twenty years between the wars.

In 1939 Kramsztyk’s mother died in Warsaw, where the war trapped him. In 1940, he moved into the Warsaw Ghetto and on August 6, 1942 “…he was shot during the so-called Grossaktion, the operation that liquidated the Warsaw Ghetto.

In 1997, the Jewish Historical Institute of Warsaw mounted a major retrospective and published a complete catalog of Kramsztyk’s works.

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The last picture is another one by Felix Nussbaum.His painting vividly tell the story of his Holocaust.

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The destruction of innocence.

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A child is born with no state if mind,blind to the ways of mankind.However for the children who lived and died during the Holocaust this innocence was forever stolen and destroyed.

The survivors often lost their friends and families, but they always lost their childhood.Below are some drawings of children of the Holocaust.

Ella Liebermann. 16 years old. Eating and soup distribution. Bedzin’s ghetto. Poland.

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Helga Weissova. 13 years old. ‘Bread transported in a hearse’

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Alfred Kantor. 17 years old

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Pavel Sonnenschein, who died aged 13, painted the inside of a ghetto.

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Vilem Eisner, who was 13 when he died, painted a lesson being held in a dorm room

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This one touched me the most because it serves as a lesson to all of us, even in the bleakest of moments we can still have positive thoughts. It was painted by Ruth Cechova, who died aged 13, she painted her memories of sunbathing.

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Ending with 2 poems of Franta Bass, he was born September 4 1931. The date if his death is unknown.

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I AM A JEW

I am a Jew and will be a Jew forever.
Even if I should die from hunger,
never will I submit.

I will always fight for my people,
on my honor.
I will never be ashamed of them,
I give my word.

I am proud of my people,
how dignified they are.
Even though I am suppressed,
I will always come back to life.

A little Garden.

A little garden

Fragrant and full of roses

The path is narrow

And a little boy walks along it

 

A little boy , a sweet boy

Like that growing blossom

When the blossom comes to bloom

The little boy will be no more.

 

 

Samuel Morgenstern-The Jewish Business man who bought Hitler’s art.

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Samuel Morgenstern, an Austrian businessman and a business partner of the young Hitler in his Vienna period, bought many of the young Hitler’s paintings. According to Morgenstern, Hitler came to him for the first time in the beginning of the 1910s, either in 1911 or in 1912. When Hitler came to Morgenstern’s glazier store for the first time, he offered Morgenstern three of his paintings. Morgenstern kept a database of his clientele, through which it had been possible to locate the buyers of young Hitler’s paintings. It is found that the majority of the buyers were Jewish. An important client of Morgenstern, a prosecuting lawyer by the name of Josef Feingold,another Jewish Business man, bought a series of paintings by Hitler depicting old Vienna.

 

Samuel Morgenstern was born in Budapest in 1875. In 1903 he opened his glazier store with a workshop in the back at 4 Liechtenstein-strasse near downtown Vienna, quite close to Sigmund Freud’s practice and apartment.

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In 1904 he married Emma Pragan, a Jew from Vienna.

In a deposition he made from memory in 1937, Morgenstern stated that Hitler had come to his store for the first time in 1911 or 1912, offering him three paintings, historical views in the style of Rudolf von Alt. Morgenstern had also sold pictures in his frame and glazier store, “since in my experience it is easier to sell frames if they contain pictures.

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After the annexation of Austria in March 1938 as leader of the “Greater German Empire,” Mr. and Mrs.Morgenstern’s destiny made a turn for the worst. In the fall of 1938 their stores, fully stocked warehouse, and workshop were “Aryanized” and taken over by a National Socialist. The “purchase price,” which was set at 620 marks, was never paid. Because Morgenstern also lost his commercial license, he was no longer allowed to work. Thus the couple- sixty-three and fifty-nine years old, respectively-had no income whatever, and what is more: they could not leave the country, because they did not have the money either for the trip or for the obligatory “Reich flight tax,” or for the required visa.

In this desperate situation Samuel Morgenstern saw only one way out: asking the Fuhrer personally for help, just as Dr. Bloch,Bloch was the physician of Adolf Hitler’s family, in Linz did around that time.

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Considering that Hitler immediately responded to Bloch’s request, Morgenstern’s hope for the Fuhrer to intervene and save his life was certainly not absurd, as long as the letter reached Hitler.

Morgenstern’s letter went on the following journey: mailed in Vienna on August 11, it arrived in Hider’s secretary’s office at the Obersalzberg in Berchtesgaden on August 12 and was forwarded from there to the “Fuhrer’s Chancellery” in Berlin on August 14, where it was opened on August 15. This is where the marginal note “Jew!” must have been added. In any case, the secretary’s office did not hand the letter to Hider but returned it to Vienna on August 19 however, not to the sender but to the Finance Ministry, where it was filed away and forgotten for the next fifty-six years.

The invasion of Poland began on September 1, 1939, and with it World War II. The Morgensterns waited fruitlessly for help from Hitler, but a short time later their house was taken from them. They had to relocate to a kind of Jewish ghetto in Leopoldstadt. From there, on October 28, 1941, they were deported to the Litzmannstadt ghetto in the Reich district of Wartheland. The deportation order was stamped, in red ink, “To Poland.”

The Morgensterns were among 25,000 Jews deported to Litzmannstadt(AKA Lodz) from Berlin, Vienna, Prague, Frankfurt, Cologne, Hamburg, Dusseldorf, and Luxembourg.

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Samuel Morgenstern died of exhaustion in the ghetto of Litzmannstadt in August 1943. He was sixty-eight years old. He was buried in the ghetto cemetery. As an eyewitness, Emma’s brother-in-law Wilhelm Abeles, a former glazier in Vienna, was to report later on, his wife was with him until the end.

Emma Morgenstern must have been deported to Auschwitz by August 1944, for on August 30 only a “cleaning-up commando” of six hundred men and a few people in hiding remained in the ghetto. Most new arrivals-above all, old women unable to work-were immediately sent to the gas chamber .

 

 

ART IN THE FACE OF THE HOLOCAUST

The below pictures are from the Ringelblum archive at the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw. Named after Emanuel Ringelblum who was executed on the 7th of March 1944 at the Pawiak Prison in Warsaw.

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I will not say too much about these paintings, I will let them do the talking.

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Other pieces of art

1942. Esther Lurie used ink on cardboard to draw this scene. She described here new deportees arriving
in the ghetto, carrying bundles of their meager possessions and scrutinized by armed guards.

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Josef Nassy (1904–1976) was a black expatriate artist of Jewish descent. Nassy was living in Belgium when World War II began, and was one of about 2,000 civilians holding American passports who were confined in German internment camps during the war.

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Fear and separation by Ella Liebermann.

By Felix Nussbaum. Born in 1904, he died at Auschwitz in 1944.

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“Kommando”and “Normal life”, by Fernand Van Horen. Van Horen was a Belgian survivor
of Esterwegen and Flossenburg concentration camps.

Children as well as adults documented events of the Holocaust through art. In this child’s drawing, Jews are shown under armed guard, being pushed into a van which will take them to deportation trains.

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An ode to Dick Bruna

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Dick Bruna was one of the Netherlands’ most famous ‘unknown’ artists. While every one in the Netherlands knew him, outside of the country most people would know his creations but would not heard of his name.

Bruna is best known for his children’s books which he authored and illustrated, now numbering over 200. His most notable creation is Miffy (Nijntje in the original Dutch), a small rabbit drawn with heavy graphic lines, simple shapes and primary colors.

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Bruna has also created stories for characters such as Lottie, Farmer John, and Hettie Hedgehog.

At a young age Bruna started drawing, but was also influenced by artists of other art forms. He drew covers for his school newspaper in Walt Disney style. Later he admired Rembrandt and Van Gogh.

The biggest influence was perhaps Matisse. Dick Bruna’s first works were based on collages by the French painter. Bruna has also been noted to have been influenced by the Dutch graphic design movement, De Stijl, in particular the work of architect Gerrit Rietveld.

Unfortunately he died on 16 Feb 2017 at the age of 89. Below is some of his art. Rest in Peace Mr Bruna, thank you for your stories and art.

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Farewell

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Han van Meegeren-The Forger who fooled Göring.

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Today 69 years ago one of the Netherlands’s most controversial artistspassed away. He went from collaborator to hero in the same criminal trial.

Henricus AntoniusHanvan Meegeren ( 10 October 1889 – 30 December 1947) was a Dutch painter and portraitist and is considered to be one of the most ingenious art forgers of the 20th century.

Forgers, by nature, prefer anonymity and therefore are rarely remembered. An exception is Han van Meegeren . Van Meegeren’s story is absolutely unique and may be justly considered the most dramatic art scam of the 20th century.

As a child, van Meegeren developed an enthusiasm for the paintings of the Dutch Golden Age, and later set out to become an artist himself. Art critics, however, decried his work as tired and derivative, and van Meegeren felt that they had destroyed his career. He decided to prove his talent to the critics by forging paintings of some of the world’s most famous artists, including Frans Hals, Pieter de Hooch, Gerard ter Borch, and Johannes Vermeer. He so well replicated the styles and colours of the artists that the best art critics and experts of the time regarded his paintings as genuine and sometimes exquisite. His most successful forgery was Supper at Emmaus, created in 1937 while living in the south of France.

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This painting was hailed as a real Vermeer by famous art experts such as Abraham Bredius. Bredius acclaimed it as “the masterpiece of Johannes Vermeer of Delft” and wrote of the “wonderful moment” of being “confronted with a hitherto unknown painting by a great master”.

During World War II, wealthy Dutchmen wanted to prevent a sellout of Dutch art to Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party, and they avidly bought van Meegeren’s forgeries, thinking them the work of the masters. Nevertheless, a falsified “Vermeer” ended up in the possession of Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring.

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During World War II, Hermann Goerring traded 137 paintings for van Meegeren’s forgery “Christ with the Woman Taken in Adultery.”

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Unfortunately for van Meegeren, Goerring kept meticulous papers regarding his transactions. At the end of World War II, van Meegeren’s name was found next to the trade for the Vermeer, and he was arrested in  May 1945 for “collaborating with the enemy.”

The allegations might have carried a death sentence, and so van Meegeren was forced to out himself as a forger. He claimed responsibility for the painting of the Vermeer that Goerring had bought, along with five other Vermeer paintings and two Pieter de Hooghs, all of which had been “discovered” after 1937. The astonished court room had him paint another forgery in front of them to prove it, and when he passed the test his charges were changed to forgery and he was sentenced to just one year in prison, which was the minimum prison sentence for such a crime.

The trial of Han van Meegeren began on 29 October 1947 in Room 4 of the Regional Court in Amsterdam. In order to demonstrate his case, it was arranged that, under police guard before the court, he would paint another “Vermeer,” Jesus Among the Doctors, using the materials and techniques he had employed for the other forgerie

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Rather than be angry with van Meegeren, the Dutch public largely lauded him as a hero. During his trial, he presented himself as a patriot—he had, after all, secured 137 paintings that had been unlawfully seized by Goerring by duping the famous Nazi into thinking he’d purchased a real Vermeer. As van Meegeren said, “How could a person demonstrate his patriotism, his love of Holland more than I did by conning the great enemy of the Dutch people?

Van Meegeren suffered a heart attack on 26 November 1947, the last day to appeal the ruling, and was rushed to the Valeriuskliniek hospital in Amsterdam. While at the hospital, he suffered a second heart attack on 29 December, and was pronounced dead at 5:00 pm on 30 December 1947 at the age of 58. His family and several hundred of his friends attended his funeral at the Driehuis Westerveld Crematorium chapel. In 1948, his urn was buried in the general cemetery in the village of Diepenveen (municipality of Deventer).

 

The Churchill Club

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These days teenagers and young adults are often referred to as “the snowflake” generation a term that refers to young people, typically university or college students, who seek to avoid emotionally charged topics, or dissenting ideas and opinions. This may involve support of safe spaces and trigger warnings in the university setting.

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Although I agree with this to an extend, I think the problem is not with this generation but with the generation that raised them.

However during WWII young people didn’t have the time to get upset by something ‘offensive’ that was said to them. For many they had to put all their energy to survive.

Some were even brave enough to defy the most evil regime on earth, with a real risk of losing their lives.

The Churchill Club (Danish: Churchill-klubben) was a group of eight teenage schoolboys from Aalborg Cathedral School in the north of Jutland who performed acts of sabotage against the Germans during the occupation of Denmark in the Second World War.

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The Churchill Club was probably the earliest resistance group to be formed in Denmark. Under the leadership of 17-year-old Knud Pedersen.

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They started their activities at the end of 1941 when they began to target the German occupation forces in Aalborg as a result of the German treatment of occupied Denmark. They succeeded in carrying out 25 acts of sabotage before they were arrested by the police in May 1942.Some of those acts of sabotage included stealing weapons and destroying vehicles, blueprints, and plane parts. The boys were charged with 1,860 million kroner for the destroyed Nazi property; their sentences ranged from two to three years in prison. Even after imprisonment, they managed to escape at night to continue their sabotage activities.

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A few days before Christmas 1941 the group was formed using the name of the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

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One of their first acts was painting the words  “War Profiteer” in blue paint on the offices and homes of known Nazi sympathizers.

The Churchill Club insignia was an imitation of the Nazi Swastika.  It was blue and had arrows shooting out of each line.  The symbol stood for “Flames of rebellion to kill Nazis!”

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They made explosives out of stolen Nazi weapons.   They decided to blow up the Aalborg railroad yard which was the Nazi base in Aalborg, on the 2nd of May 1942 .  The rail car they blew up contained air plane wings.  The Danish firemen were slow to help the Germans put out the fire because they were afraid of more explosions.

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On the 8th of May 1942 members of the Churchill club had been  followed and were subsequently  arrested for stealing German soldier’s weapons.Although they didn’t know how to use the weapons.

 

On the 17th of July the boys were put on trial and were sentenced depending on their age.Knud Pedersen was sentenced to 3 years in Nyborg state prison.

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I am surprised about the relative lenient sentences they received. More often then not these acts of resistance resulted in death sentences.

Knud Pedersen became an accomplished artist after the war.

 

 

Max Ehrlich-Told to be funny or be shot.

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Max Ehrlich (1892-1944) was one of the most celebrated actors and directors on the German comedy and cabaret scene of the 1930s. But his brilliant career was brutally interrupted by the rise of Nazism and his resulting deportation in 1942 to Westerbork concentration camp in Holland. Amazingly, there behind the walls and barbed wire, Max Ehrlich formed a theater troupe composed of fellow prisoners – the majority of them also famous Jewish show business personalities – and produced high quality musical and comedy revues. This artistic activity provided the means for everyone concerned, audience and actors alike, to retain a small measure of humanity, free their minds – if only momentarily – from the tragedy of daily life and nourish the illusion of survival. But, in the end, comedy did not prevail: like almost all of his colleagues from this theater of despair, in 1944 Max Ehrlich was transported to Auschwitz and gassed.

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Born on 25 November 1892, Max Ehrlich began his career as a stage actor in the 1920s, quickly building a reputation as a vital force on the Berlin cabaret scene. A popular parodist and poet, he performed with many other Jewish and leftist artists during the Weimar years.  However, like most of his fellow performers, his work was largely apolitical or only subtly critical.  Ehrlich also became a successful movie actor, with more than forty movie credits to his name by the time the Nazi take-over in 1933 abruptly ended his career.

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Max Ehrlich took part in over 40 movies and directed ten of it in his career. He published several records and wrote the book “From Adalbert to Zilzer”, in which he wrote humorous stories and anecdotes about many of his colleagues.

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With most performance venues either shut down or prohibited to him, that year he decided to assess the scene in Austria.  However, in Vienna as in Berlin, Nazis harassed him while he was on stage, ultimately making his act impossible.  Reluctantly he moved through Switzerland on to the Nerherlands, where he was already well-known as a touring comedian and cabaret star.  (German cabaret was popular in continental Europe during the inter-war years).  After two years touring Amsterdam, Zurich and Bern with other émigré artists, however, homesickness and the hope that things would get better drove him back to Berlin.

In 1935, Ehrlich returned to Nazi Germany. Jewish entertainers once again were permitted to perform there but only within the framework of the Jüdischer Kulturbund (Jewish Cultural Union) and exclusively in front of Jewish audiences.

In 1937 he left Germany and with the help of Ernst Lubitsch he went to the USA.

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Unfortunately he was not able to get work there, so he made the fatal decision to return to Europe

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Ehrlich was named director of the Kulturbund’s light theatre departments. However, following the 1938 pogrom “Kristallnacht,” he decided to leave Germany definitively.

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Both of his farewell performances immediately sold out, so that a third presentation on 2 April 1939 was added. Here, in front of a full house of fans, calling out their affection and encouragement, Ehrlich made his final appearance in Germany.

Subsequently, he returned to the Netherlands once again and joined Willy Rosen’s “Theater der Prominenten” (Theatre of Celebrities),

 

until in 1943 ,like so many of his colleagues– Ehrlich was imprisoned in the Westerbork concentration camp. While at Westerbork, he created and became director of the “Camp Westerbork Theatre Group,” a cabaret troupe that during its eighteen-month existence staged six major theatre productions, all within the concentration camp’s confines. A majority of the actors were famous Jewish show business personalities; prominent artists from Berlin and Vienna, such as Willy Rosen, Erich Ziegler, Camilla Spira, and Kurt Gerron; or well known Dutch performers, like Esther Philipse, Jetty Cantor, and Johnny & Jones. At its high point, the group counted fifty-one members, including a full team of musicians, dancers, choreographers, artists, tailors, and make-up, lighting, and other technicians, as well as stage hands.

Most of the shows combined elements of revue and cabaret –songs and sketches– but, on one occasion, the program included a revue-operetta, Ludmilla, or Corpses Everywhere—a production whose theme sadly was a premonition of the actors’ and other prisoners’ fate. While some scenes were implicitly critical, of course, the Theatre Group at no time produced openly political cabaret or directly attacked the Nazi regime.

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To do so would have violated the most fundamental condition for the troupe’s and its members’ survival, as life in Westerbork was dominated by the persistent threat of deportation on the next transport to an unknown but deeply feared fate in the East. So, standing helplessly and unaided before the fascists’ executioners and their lackeys, the Theatre Group, of necessity, limited itself to entertaining its audiences and to momentarily distracting them from the surrounding horrors. But in so doing, it also gave their captive audiences renewed hope and the courage to face an otherwise unbearable existence.

Doubtlessly, this artistic activity provided the means for everyone concerned, audiences and actors alike, to retain a small measure of humanity, free their minds –if only momentarily– from the tragedy of daily life and nourish the illusion of survival.

https://dirkdeklein.net/2016/06/22/holocaust-and-humour/

During the summer of 1944, increasing numbers of transports carried Westerbork’s prisoners to the extermination camps in the East. Of 104,000 camp inmates, fewer than 5,000 survived. In the last transport to leave Westerbork, on 4 September 1944, Ehrlich was number 151 on the list of victims. Eyewitnesses recount that, after reaching Auschwitz, he was recognized by a Hauptsturmführer. As a result, Ehrlich was subjected to additional torture: brought before a group of SS officers holding their loaded guns aimed at him, he was ordered to tell jokes. On 1 October 1944, Ehrlich was murdered in the Auschwitz gas chambers.