Remembering Fré Cohen

One of the aspects of the Holocaust that is often forgotten about, maybe on purpose, is suicide. There were so many who in their desperation only saw one way out and that was by taking their own lives.

Frederika Sophia (Fré) Cohen was born on 11 August 1903 in Amsterdam. She was the oldest daughter of diamond cutter Levie Cohen, a member of the Social-Democrat Jewish community in Amsterdam. Like many other diamond workers, Levie Cohen was often out of work. Therefore, the Cohen family moved to Antwerp in Belgium, where there was more work in the diamond business. After the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the family returned to Amsterdam.

Fré Cohen was a successful and image-defining woman in the men’s world of graphic design. She was of great importance to the Amsterdam School. In her work, both the formal language and the ideals of the Amsterdam School are clearly expressed. She designed graphic print work for the city of Amsterdam, for the socialist movement, such as the Social Democratic Workers Party (SDAP), the Arbeiders Jeugd Centrale (AJC), trade unions, and cooperatives.

Her Jewish origins are in keeping with the story of the Amsterdam School, which had an important basis in the Jewish proletariat, including the diamond working movement.

She had a large output of rather varied printed matter, from window bills to bookplates, diplomas, illustrations, running headers, baby announcements, and postcards. There are also some three-dimensional works such as boxes and scale models. She created folders and maps for Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, in a modernist style using gold, red and blue. Besides, she made paintings, portraits, drawings, woodcuts, and linocuts.

In 1935, the Maastricht publisher A.A.M. Stols publishes Cohen’s work in Het Schoone Boek. 15) Even though his interest is mainly in bibliophile productions and not in large, machine-made editions.

Stols’s review of Cohen’s work demonstrates the success of publishers such as the World Library and Querido that use new techniques and attract ‘artists and innovators in this field.

During the occupation, in 1941 and 1942, Cohen made picture postcards for the Gebroeders Spanjerberg company, with traditional costumes from Huizen, Bunschoten-Spakenburg, and Zeeland towns.

In November 1941, Cohen was appointed as a teacher at the Jewish applied arts school W.A. van Leer. Not only Dutch Jews but also German emigrants, such as Stefan Schlesinger and Leon Kratzenstein, taught at the Jewish applied arts school Van Leer.

The teachers of the school were initially exempt from deportation. Fré Cohen was one of the gesperrden (exempt), but in May 1942 received a call-up for Arbeitseinsatz and then went into hiding. First with J. Uylings in Amsterdam, where she hid for three weeks. Then she went into hiding in Diemen, with her friend Rie Keesje, after that in Hilversum, with the parents of Pieter Brattinga, and finally, she hid in Lochem with Margo Vos and finally in Borne, with Hendrik and Mien Zomer. During that period she continued to work illegally when she could. On 12 June 1943, she was arrested by the Germans in Borne. In haste, she took the pills she had hoarded for such an emergency. After two days in a coma, she died on 14 June 1943 at the age of 39 at a hospital in Hengelo.

Such a tragedy and all the art that would never be created.



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Emile Franken’s Testimony in Cartoon Form

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

I also know he spent time in the Vught concentration camp, and from there he was transported to Westerbork on 18 October 1943. After that, he was deported on 3 March 1944 to Auschwitz-Birkenau. The caption of the drawing at the top of the blog says, “Mealtime at the planes, Birkenau.”

“Life in Lower Birkenau Poland, 1944 Latrine at Night in Block.”
Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration camp

Above left: Arrival and transport in Birkenau
Above right: Selection for crematorium [or KL]
Lower left: The last clothes are taken off
Lower right: Hair cutting

I do not know if Emile survived, I doubt it very much, but his drawings made his experiences crystal clear. I suppose now-a-day this could be called memes, but memes are supposed to be funny or satirical. There is nothing funny about these—they portray reality.


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.


A present for Millie

Maurice is a British sculptor and a former President of the Royal British Society of Sculptors. He is known for his figurative male sculpture.

He was born in Amsterdam on April 21,1939. much of his art is influenced by his experience of his time in Bergen Belsen concentration camp as a young child. His father and his youngest sister were killed in Bergen Belsen.

In 2019 he was part of a BBC documentary titled “The Last Survivors. Where he spoke about the death of his little sister and how he had made a present for Millie for her 1st birthday. The story broke me heart. He spoke about when Millie died his older sister dropped the body of Millie on the pile of corpses outside of the barracks. Death should never be a part of life for any child.

“I’m not one of these artists dying to get into the studio and make the next thing, it’s always been a struggle in a way to get around my initial feelings about making a sculpture.

I mean I have to go back to when I was in the camp and I had my little sister was born there, and err, she was coming up for her first birthday, and um, I mean, obviously as you can imagine, it wasn’t somewhere where you could go and get presents and things and food was very tight you know, very hard to get hold of and anyhow, it was coming up for her birthday, and I’d found a carrot which was a bit bent, and I made it into a little boat, I’d put little sticks for masts in it and I was gonna give this to her for her birthday and I, you know I was what, five and a half or something, and I’d kept asking my mother, you know is it her birthday now, and it wasn’t and soon, not now, soon.

So this build up to when her birthday was when I could give her, her present. And err, she didn’t get there, she didn’t’ make it to her birthday, you know she died and I couldn’t give her this present, and years later when I had therapy you know, Jean, the therapist said well this was your first sculpture and in a way that’s stayed with you ever since you know and consequently I’ve put down the fact that, that it was always a struggle for me, although I wanted to make a sculpture you know it was never a lovely experience, it was a struggle, it was a torment.”


Happy Birthday Vincent van Gogh

Vincent Willem van Gogh ( 30 March 1853 – 29 July 1890) was a Dutch post-impressionist painter who posthumously became one of the most famous and influential figures in the history of Western art. In a decade, he created about 2,100 artworks, including around 860 oil paintings, most of which date from the last two years of his life. They include landscapes, still lifes, portraits and self-portraits, and are characterised by bold colours and dramatic, impulsive and expressive brushwork that contributed to the foundations of modern art. He was not commercially successful, and his suicide at 37 came after years of mental illness, depression and poverty.

On his birthday lets have a look at his lesser known works.

Skull of a Skeleton with Burning Cigarette

Still Life with Open Bible, Extinguished Candle and Novel

Drawbridge in Nieuw-Amsterdam.

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.



I believe it is very important to keep history alive, but unfortunately that is not free. However I will not ask to pay for subscription , but if you want to donate it is very much appreciated, but only of you can


Art from a Limerick Artist.


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






Louis Asscher-Bergen Belsen victim


Bergen Belsen was liberated 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 beautiful.

Half a loaf of bread


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

role call



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.


I am passionate about my site and I know you all like reading my blogs. I have been doing this at no cost and will continue to do so. All I ask is for a voluntary donation of $2, however if you are not in a position to do so I can fully understand, maybe next time then. Thank you. To donate click on the credit/debit card icon of the card you will use. If you want to donate more then $2 just add a higher number in the box left from the PayPal link. Many thanks.



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.



I am passionate about my site and I know you all like reading my blogs. I have been doing this at no cost and will continue to do so. All I ask is for a voluntary donation of $2, however if you are not in a position to do so I can fully understand, maybe next time then. Thank you. To donate click on the credit/debit card icon of the card you will use. If you want to donate more then $2 just add a higher number in the box left from the PayPal link. Many thanks.



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


I am passionate about my site and I know you all like reading my blogs. I have been doing this at no cost and will continue to do so. All I ask is for a voluntary donation of $2, however if you are not in a position to do so I can fully understand, maybe next time then. Thank you. To donate click on the credit/debit card icon of the card you will use. If you want to donate more then $2 just add a higher number in the box left from the PayPal link. Many thanks.