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.

Sources

https://chgs.elevator.umn.edu/asset/viewAsset/57fbe5ec7d58ae7d76557594#57fbe5ea7d58ae7d76557593

https://www.yadvashem.org/yv/en/exhibitions/last_portrait/friedmann.asp

https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/irn50039

https://www.visitnorman.com/events/testimony-the-life-and-work-of-david-friedman

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Art from a Limerick Artist.

2020-08-08

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

 

Sources

https://www.facebook.com/ArtistLouiseHarrison/?__xts__%5B0%5D=68.ARBsHB0Om-VVO1Wy_WowAkJCoO7vmcZebM9cPwJqmEhze7Ju0XctDOeTrXK8in_H9dB8okjFXhKOqEEol_CPGKijdNnSUnupbwkXaAmVKv5spaNYhw8FbYmLVuZQq_bDfioPB08cb9-vNtb4-kaUvFWrxrGJXBvd3U6BV4010PVV6e3sE-_XICqFYHdxANVSa6I7XFG1-udGCyBHWxChsu4D7jMu0_9LQXqMHwLYPmoZH6yiUEh4UocIJwGPSBl3prqC30LcmmnqWQxcS-qBpCU5qj8INOn_hZ1a_zQtWeAlakXAAQwLO0CG7OJwNwCNPKwaO1SxiomMj3ccf-0

 

https://www.saatchiart.com/account/profile/1620991?fbclid=IwAR2szPS9uKSqG9PsyDZ-FBXFXfAduFY3coPTEIQjFMGa2G3_4cPXGfCGFik

 

 

 

Louis Asscher-Bergen Belsen victim

Louis

Bergen Belsen was liberated 75 years ago on April 15,1945. For many it was a true liberation but for others liberation came too late. Even for many of those who were liberated on that day it was still too late.

They were either so ill or malnourished that they did not survive,  After liberation nearly 14,000 people died.

Louis Asscher was one of those 14,000 , he died on April 19, just 4 days after liberation. He was an office clerk when the war broke out he and his wife took German Jewish refugees into their home in Amsterdam

But it wasn’t long before he and his family had to prepare for deportation themselves.He packed his phylacteries, prayer books, 25 sheets of paper and pieces of charcoal in his backpack.

Although Louis was an office clerk he was also an artist and while he was in Bergen Belsen he drew a series of sketches, some are as haunting as they are beatutidul.

Half a loaf of bread

brood

Roll call square and barrack 11- “the Hunger barrack”

role call

Watchtower

watchtower

Death bed

death bed

Louis has 4 children, they all survived. If there is one small consolation, and I mean a tiny one at least Louis died a free man.

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Sources

https://beeldbankwo2.nl/nl/beelden/?mode=gallery&view=horizontal&q=Bergen%20Belsen&rows=25&page=1&record=d201597e-025a-11e7-904b-d89d6717b464

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/en/page/515544/about-louis-asscher

 

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

convoy

Their Last Steps

steps

Selection for Gas Chambers

selection

the Remains of Children

children

The last one hit me hard.

 

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Source

http://fcit.usf.edu/Holocaust/gallery2/D38.HTM

Starry Night-Vincent.

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.

gun

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.

notification

Such a tragic life.

Starry night

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The Train Violin.

violin 1

The following story may not seem like much for anyone who is not a musician. But a musician will understand the significance of it and can identify with the sense of loss and sacrifice.

A musician’s instrument is more then a tool it becomes part of him or her.nearly a member of the family.

The violin from Lyon or the Train Violin

In July 1942 thousands of Jews were arrested in Paris and sent by cattle trains to concentration camps in the East, most of them to Auschwitz. On one of the packed trains was a man holding a violin. When the train stopped somewhere along the sad roads of France, the man heard voices speaking French, a few men were working on the railways fixing them and walking at leisure. The man in the train cried out:

“In the place where I now go – I don’t need a violin. Here, take my violin so it may live!”

The man threw his violin out the narrow window. It landed on the rails and was picked up by one of the French workers. For many years the violin had no life. No one played it. No one had any use for it. Years later the worker passed away and his children found the abandoned violin in the attic. They soon looked to sell it to a local maker in the South of France and told him the story they heard from their father. The French violin maker heard about Violins of Hope and gave it to us, so the violin will live.

violin 3

One Violin

Two Hands

Four Strings

Ten Fingers

Thousands  pieces of music

One Haunting Memory

One Final Farewell

One Revival

The soul of the musician is heard again.

The spirits are lifted one more time.

You can kill the artist but you can’t kill the art.

 

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Sources

Violins of Hope

YouTube

 

Painting for Mengele.

Painting

When you look at some bizarre connections in History, you cannot escape the fact that life sometimes has a ironic way of weaving a tapestry of coincidences.

One of Hitler’s favourite movies was the Walt Disney classic “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” released in 1937.

Disney

One of the main animators of the movie was Art Babbitt. an animator who joined the Disney studio in 1932. He  was born to a Jewish family in Omaha, Nebraska.

But that’s not where this tapestry of coincidences,or even fate, stops.

Dina Gottliebová was born in Brno, Czechoslovakia on January 21, 1923 .She was raised by her Mother, Johanna Schawl, a lone parent . Her mother had left Dina’s father when she was only 4 months old.

When Snow white and the Seven dwarfs was released, Dina must have seen the movie at least 7 times.

In 1939, when the Germans invaded her homeland, Dina was living in Prague, where she had enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts. In 1942  Dina’s mother received a summons that the Jews were being moved. Dina  left school and volunteered to be shipped out with her mother to , Theresienstadt, in Czechoslovakia.

Thersien

She was actually sent to Theresienstadt on Jan. 21, 1942, her 19th birthday. Dina and her mother stayed there until Sept. 7, 1943 when they were among 5,000 people transferred to Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland.

In 1944, while in Auschwitz, Dina was chosen by Mengele to draw portraits of Roma Gypsy prisoners .Mengele wished to capture the Roma’s skin coloration better than he could with camera and film at that time. Dina agreed if her own mother’s life were spared as well,Mengele agreed.

One of the people she painted was called Celine. Dina says of painting her muse back in 1944.

“She was very sad and I said, ‘Are you sick?’”  “Celine  said, ‘My baby just died.’ It was a 2-month-old baby and she couldn’t get anything to feed the baby and didn’t have any milk. And Celine couldn’t eat anything. We had black bread with something in it—too much bran or something that made people sick—and I said, ‘Well, can I help with something?’ She said, ‘You can get some white bread.’”

Dina asked Mengele for some white bread. He delivered and Dina sneaked it to Celine, but unfortunately Celine did not survive the death camp. (I believe the portrait below is of Celine but I could not verify it, But it is definitely one of Dina’s paintings)

celine portarit

Both Dina and her Mother survived the Holocaust.Dina moved to the US after the war.

However this is not where this tapestry of life stops. There was to be one more twist to Dina’s life. On April 27,1949, Dina married Art Babbitt. The man who was the main animator of the movie she had watched so many times.

Their marriage didn’t last though. They got divorced in 1963. Dina died aged 86 on July 29,2009, in Santa Cruz California

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Sources

Goodtimes.sc

The Jewish News of Northern California

IMDb.

 

 

 

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.

husband

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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Sources

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Suitcase

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.

Jeu

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.

pisarro

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.

Leon

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In the end Hitler and his mates were pathetic hypocrites.

loot 1

One of the things I can’t comprehend is the fact that no one appeared to be seeing through the lies and hypocrisy of the Nazi regime.

They saw they Jews as vermin and filth. And everything Jewish was forbidden, Jewish books were burned, Jewish music was banned. Basically in the eyes of Hitler and his cronies the Jews were a contaminated and tainted race.

Here is the thing if I find something tainted and contaminated I want nothing to do with it, and want to stay as far away from it and everything it came in contact with.

That is also the message the Nazi spread. However they were not afraid the steal art and valuables belonging to Jews. They even would go as far as taking the gold teeth or gold dental caps of those they had murdered in the gas chambers, to remelt the gold and use it again.

dental caps

They had an organisation dedicated to steeling art and valuables. The ‘Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg’ or Reichsleiter Rosenberg Taskforce, were tasked to to confiscate:

  • precious manuscripts and books from national libraries and archives;
  • important artifacts of ecclesiastical authorities and Masonic lodges;
  • all valuable cultural property belonging to Jews.ERR_Seal

They must have been one of the busiest Nazi task force  by their own estimates until 17 October 1944, they transitioned, 1,418,000 railway wagons containing books and works of art as well as 427,000 tonnes by ship.Neuschwanstein Castle was the ERR’s principal storage facility, but they also used salt mines and other places.

castle

Some of the art was only found decades after the war and some was never found. Below are and valuables  just some impressions of the are recovered by the allied troops. The first picture is a famous picture and although it is not graphic it is nonetheless harrowing for it is a picture of gold rings, of victims of concentration camps.

Rings

Loot 2

loot 3

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