Last Portrait: Art from the maw of hell and the soul of a Jew.

Works of art from the exhibition “Last Portrait” from the Yad Vashem Art Collection in Israel. The exhibit consist of nearly 200 portraits, all of them created by 21 artists

2artistssignaturesA compelling collection of portraiture from the Holocaust — but much more. They are a meditation by each artist, on the physiognomy of a human face and soul, a meditation of love for line, texture, shade, color, a meditation of a profound interpretation and esthetic, a meditation of artist and subject bound together for the moment to still the clamor of madmen, to postpone crazed citizens wielding hate and death bullets, to put on hold the creeping gallows of lethal gas.
That is their moment, each pleased with the other, subject and artist live, and will live-on, a union held there for us by what is expressed on paper in spite of and because of a random call to death in wait. There are survivors among both the artists and their subjects; there are those from each who did not. Included in this post are two of the 21 artists, both their art and their history. Meet and get to know Max Plaček and Arnold Daghani. If you appreciate art, if you’re moved by life’s commonplace heroes, their courage, their epic lives, except the invitation.

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Born in Kyjov, Austro-Hungarian Empire, in 1902.
Murdered in Sachsenhausen in 1944.

While he was still a boy, Plaček loved to draw and paint, as well as playing the violin. He studied law for a number of semesters, but left his studies to start working as an insurance agent, first in Banská Bystrica and later in Prague, where he married Trude Pollak. Following the German occupation in 1939, he was drafted for clerical work at the Central Office for Jewish Emigration in Bohemia and Moravia. In 1942, after a short period working as a forced laborer on the farm of the widow of Reinhard Heydrich, the head of the Gestapo, he was, in September 1942, deported to the Theresienstadt Ghetto. On December 18, 1943, he was transported to the “family camp” in Auschwitz. In July 1944, he was transported to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, where he was murdered.

During his internment in Theresienstadt, Plaček drew almost uninterrupted. He drew hundreds of caricatures portraits in profile in a humorous style – figures of literary and cultural background from Czechoslovakia and other central European countries. Plaček added attributes to the portraits, such as books they had written and music they had composed. He made sure to note the date on each portrait, and had the sitter sign it. Some of the individuals portrayed also added a comment or a dedication to the artist. The large body of portraits reflects the human and cultural wealth of the inmate population in Theresienstadt; scientists, artists, musicians, actors, and intellectuals from a variety of fields.

The Yad Vashem collection holds more than 500 portraits by Plaček, drawn during the eight month period between May to December, 1943. The last portrait he drew was finished about a week before he was transported to Auschwitz.

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Born in Suceava, Austro-Hungarian Empire, in 1909.
Died in Hove, England, in 1985.

 In the late 1920s, he went to Munich and Paris, apparently to continue his art studies. He moved to Bucharest at the beginning of the 1930s and, due to his mastery of several languages, he worked as a clerk in an export firm. It was there that he changed his name from Korn to Daghani. In June 1940, he married Anişoara Rabinovici. A few months later, their home was damaged in an earthquake and they moved to Czernowitz. Following the German occupation in July 1941, Daghani was forced to work as a street cleaner. In October the couple were deported to the Czernowitz Ghetto, and in June 1942, they were conscripted for forced labor in Ladizhin. In August the couple were sent to the Mikhailowka Labor Camp in Transnistria, where the prisoners were compelled to repair the main road from Gaisin to Uman.

 In June 1943, Daghani was ordered to create a mosaic in the shape of the German eagle, for the headquarters of the August Dohrmann Company in the nearby town of Gaisin. About a month later Daghani and his wife escaped, and managed to reach the Bershad Ghetto. With the intervention of the Red Cross, they were released on December 31, 1943 and went to Tiraspol. In March 1944, they made their way to Bucharest, where they remained until the end of the war. In 1958, they immigrated to Israel. The Daghanis returned to Europe in 1961, eventually settling in England.

 When Daghani was deported to the Czernowitz Ghetto, a policeman ordered him to take his sketchbook and paints with him, suggesting that they might help him to survive. At Mikhailowka, Daghani used these art supplies to portray life in the camp and to paint portraits of the camp’s prisoners, officers and guards. He continued in the Bershad Ghetto, painting portraits of the internees, as well as scenes from the ghetto. After his liberation, Daghani dedicated his life to art and to writing his memoirs. Daghani’s portraits, their seemingly esthetic quality notwithstanding, constitute rare color testimony to the cruel and harsh reality of the prisoners’ lives.

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For the entire online Yad Vashem exhibit with
examples of the 21 artists click here.

For an exhibition catalogue, with nearly 200 portraits from the Yad Vashem Art collection, created by 21 artists click here.  

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Echo their names here — an invocation if you will, know them so they can be known, so you can grasp their brutal end. Only 15, a drop in the bloody bucket.

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Yad Vashem is Israel’s official memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, established in 1953 through the Yad Vashem Law passed by the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. The name “Yad Vashem” is taken from a verse in the Book of Isaiah.

Naming the Holocaust memorial “yad vashem” conveys the idea of establishing a national depository for the names of Jewish victims who have no one to carry their name after death.

The names and photographs submitted to Yad Veshem are from family and friends; each submission, from 3 to 5 sentences, is referred to as a  “Page of Testimony.”

Feel for 15, you’ll feel for 6 million

The following 15 Pages of Testimony will give you a proper feel of where the remaining other millions of souls who suffered this unfathomable agony would have taken you. That’s all you need to feel. Feel for 15, you’ll feel for 6 million. If you don’t feel you’re either a nazi and/or some sick f___k.

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1 5  P A G E S  OF  T E S T I M O N Y
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1. MARA COBLIC, daughter of Yitzhak and Bracha Coblic, was born in 1936 in Chisinau, Romania (today Moldova). Mara and her family were incarcerated in the Chisinua ghetto, where she and her mother perished. The Page of Testimony in her memory and the photograph were submitted to Yad Vashem by Malka Gipsman, Mara’s cousin.
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2. THE GRITZ FAMILY Chaya Gritz (ne Zuckerman) was born in Berezno, Poland in 1906.She married Jacob Nianje Gritz, also from Berezno, who was three years her senior. In 1933, their daughter Ettele Menucha was born. The family was incarcerated in the Berezno ghetto, where they were murdered by the Germans and their Ukrainian collaborators in August 1942. The photograph and Pages of Testimony in their memory were submitted to Yad Vashem by Yishayahu Perry, Chaya Gritz’s nephew.
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3. ARTU and TRUDA RUBIN on their Wedding Day. Artur Rubin was born in 1901 in Dobris, Czechoslovakia. He was married to Truda Kaplusz, born in Dobris in 1907. Artur was a trader and Truda was a housewife. In 1944, they were deported to Auschwitz, where they were murdered. Artur was 43 and his wife was 37. The Pages of Testimony in their memory and the photograph were submitted to Yad Vashem by Vera Karger, the Rubin’s niece, living in the United States.

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4. SARA LIVSHITZ daughter of Moshe and Riva (nee Shoikhet), was born in 1938 in Vinnitsa, Ukraine. In 1941, she was murdered in Vinnitsa, together with her parents, and her brother Daniel, age 6. She was just 3 years old. The photograph and Page of Testimony in her memory were submitted to Yad Vashem by her cousin, Dora Vernikov, who live in the Ukraine.
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jacoby5. HEINRICH and MARGARETE JACOBY  BERLIN, 1940  Heinrich Jacoby was born in Belgard, Germany on October 15, 1864. His wife Margarete was born in Eidtkonen, Germany on November 11, 1875. They were deported from Germany and perished in Theresienstadt on January 18, 1943, age 79, and Margarete on August 22, 1943, age 68. The Pages of Testimony in their memory and the photograph were submitted by their daughter, Julia Faerber Jacoby, who lives in France.
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6. FLORIKA LIEBMANN  was born in 1934 in Szeged, Hungary to Bela and Szerena (née Hortobagyi) Liebmann. She went to school in Szeged, and in 1944, at the age of 10, was deported to her death. Her mother also perished. The photograph and Page of Testimony in her memory were submitted to Yad Vashem by Moshe Hortobagy.
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7. YEHIEL MINTZBERG Son of Abek (Abba) and Miriam Mintzberg, was born in Radom, Poland. He lived in Radom during the war, until October 1942, when he was deported to Treblinka, and murdered. He was ten years old. The Page of Testimony in his memory and the photograph were submitted to Yad Vashem by his aunt, Lola Politanski from Israel.
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8. KURT PECKEL FAMILY. Kurt, son of Adolf and Pauline Peckel, was born on 9 March, 1897 in Inse, Germany. He married Frania Kalter, and they had a son, Adolf. The family lived in Leipzig, Germany, and during the war they were in Southern France. On 31 August 1942, Kurt, Frania and Adolf were deported on the 26th transport from the Drancy transit camp to Auschwitz, where they all perished. The family photograph and Page of Testimony in memory of Kurt Peckel were submitted to Yad Vashem by Horace Peck (formerly Peckel), Kurt’s brother from the US.
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9. GREGORY SHEHTMAN Gregory, son of Haim and Feiga Shehtman, was born in Kiev, Ukraine in 1934. In September 1941, Gregory was taken to Babi Yar, a ravine just outside Kiev, and murdered. The photograph and Page of Testimony in his memory were submitted to Yad Vashem by Rachel Gorinstein, Gregory’s half-sister, who lives in the US.
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10 OLGA KRAUSZ & HER SON IMRE Olga Krausz, daugher of Lajos and Janka Blumenfeld, was born in Satoraljaujhely, Hungary in 1905. She was married to Jozsef Krausz, a doctor by profession. Olga was a teacher. In 1938 they had a son, Imre. During the war, the Krausz family lived in Pecs, Hungary. They were all murdered in Auschwitz in 1944. The photograph and Pages of Testimony in their memory were submitted to Yad Vashem by Gustav Grtner, Olga’s nephew, who lives in the Czech Republic.
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11. LAURA & VILIAM SCHWARTZ Laura Schwartz, daughter of Margit and Ede Hadinger, was married to Viliam Schwartz, and was a pharmacist by profession. The couple lived in Cluj, Romania. Laura perished at the age of 28, probably in a concentration camp. Viliam’s fate is unknown. The photograph and Page of Testimony in her memory were submitted by her cousin Carol Rosenfeld, who lives in Sweden.
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12. RENEE ALBERSHEIM Renée, daughter of Fritz and Helene Albersheim, was born in Berlin, Germany in 1930. During the war the family lived in Lithuania, Helene’s country of origin. Rene and her parents were incarcerated in the Kovno ghetto, where they perished. The Page of Testimony in her memory and the photograph were submitted to Yad Vashem by Tamara Jawschitz-Spatz, Renes’s cousin.
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13. MARINA SMARGONSKI  Marina, daughter of Nahum and Anna-Nyuta Smargonski, was born in Riga, Latvia on 30 August 1938. During the war the family lived in Riga, and Marina perished in the Riga ghetto in December of 1941. She was 3 years old. Her father perished in a concentration camp in Germany. The photograph and Page of Testimony in her memory were submitted to Yad Vashem by Anna Yarshov (formerly Smargonski), Marina’s mother.
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14. AMARA HALPERN with one of her two daughters – Lita or Ruth. Tamara Kessel was born in 1903 in Riga, Latvia, and married Abraham Halpern, also born in Riga. They had two daughters – Lita, born in 1929 and Ruth, born in 1931. The family lived in Riga during the war. None of them survived. The Pages of Testimony in their memory and the photograph were submitted by Shirley Morgenstern, Tamara’s cousin.
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15. ELISABETH GERSCH AND DAUGHTER, EVA  Eva Elisabeth Gersch (née Grunfeld) was born in 1914 in TG-Mures, Transylvania (Romania). She was married to Rudolph and they lived in Deda Bisztra, Romania where Elisabeth was a housewife. In 1936 they had a daughter whom they named Eva (in photograph). During the war, the family lived in the Regin ghetto. Elisabeth and Eva were deported to Auschwitz, where they were gassed in 1944. Elisabeth was 40 and Eva was 8 years old. The photograph and Pages of Testimony in their memory were submitted to Yad Vashem by Elisabeth’s niece Adela Ganea, herself a Holocaust survivor, living in Haifa.
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The Shoah Victims’ Names Recovery Project 

The Shoah Victims’ Names Recovery Project aims to memorialize each individual Jew murdered in the Holocaust by recording their names, biographical details and photographs on special forms created by Yad Vashem, called Pages of Testimony.

Yad VashemEternal flame in the Hall of Remembrance

Yad VashemEternal flame in the Hall of Remembrance

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Pages of Testimony

Pages of Testimony are special forms designed by Yad Vashem to restore the personal identity and brief life stories of the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis and their accomplices.

Since its inception Yad Vashem has worked tirelessly to collect these one-page forms, containing the names, biographical details and, when available, photographs, of each individual victim. Pages of Testimony are submitted by survivors, remaining family members or friends and acquaintances in commemoration of Jews murdered in the Holocaust.

The first 800,000 names on Pages of Testimony were collected during the 1950’s, with ongoing global outreach efforts to identify the unnamed victims of the Shoah so they will always be remembered.

To date there are some 2.5 million Pages of Testimony, written in more than twenty languages, stored for perpetuity in the circular repository around the outer edge of the Hall of Names, with space for six million in total. Empty shelves bear witness to the millions of individuals who have yet to be memorialized.

The Hall of Names

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View of the Hall of Names

The Hall of Names at Yad Vashem is the Jewish People’s memorial to each and every Jew who perished in the Holocaust – a place where they may be commemorated for generations to come.

The main circular hall houses the extensive collection of “Pages of Testimony” – short biographies of each Holocaust victim. Over two million Pages are stored in the circular repository around the outer edge of the Hall, with room for six million in all.

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The ceiling of the Hall is composed of a ten-meter high cone reaching skywards, displaying 600 photographs and fragments of Pages of Testimony.

This exhibit represents a fraction of the murdered six million men, women and children from the diverse Jewish world destroyed by the Nazis and their accomplices. The victims’ portraits are reflected in water at the base of an opposing cone carved out of the mountain’s bedrock.

Aerial view of Yad Vashem

Aerial view of Yad Vashem

Yad Vashem is located on the western slope of Mount Herzl on the Mount of Remembrance in Jerusalem, 804 meters (2,638 ft) above sea level and adjacent to the Jerusalem Forest. Yad Vashem is a 180-dunam (180,000 m2; 1,900,000 sq ft) complex containing the Holocaust History Museum, memorial sites such as the Children’s Memorial and the Hall of Remembrance, The Museum of Holocaust Art, sculptures, outdoor commemorative sites such as the Valley of the Communities, a synagogue, archives, a research institute, library, publishing house and an educational center, The International School for Holocaust Studies. Yad Vashem honors non-Jews who saved Jews during the Holocaust, at personal risk, as the Righteous Among the Nations.

Yad Vashem is the second most-visited tourist site in Israel, after the Western Wall. It receives some one million visitors annually. Admission is free.

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Feel for 15, you’ll feel for 6 million.


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How could they have just gone to their slaughter like that?

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HJ (Hollywood Jew): The Atlantic journalist Jeffrey Goldberg pointed out that many in the media tend to point out the disproportionate casualty count between Israelis and Palestinians, and he wisely wondered if there is a moral difference between attempted murder and successful murder.

BM (Bill Maher): It’s obvious that Israelis, in all of their battles with the Palestinians, show restraint. Because they have nuclear weapons. And if the situation was reversed, I don’t doubt for a second that Palestinians would fire them immediately. They’d use the maximum of what they have available and the Israelis don’t.

HJ: There was a big debate this week in the Jewish world that arose from a dispute between two rabbis about whether Judaism should be more universal and humane or more tribal and self interested. But it is widely felt that the Israeli army conducts itself with deep concern for the humanity of the people they are fighting.

 BM: Let’s not forget the other side of this issue, which is, the Palestinians do have gripes, and most Israelis do not agree with the Netanyahu government on the settlement issue. [Israelis] want a two state solution. I don’t think anybody’s ever gonna be happy or the conflict will ever end before that happens and as many writers have pointed out, Israel faces the problem of becoming a minority Jewish state within their own country if they allow this to keep going. There has to be some solution. In a lot of ways, what we see in Israel is their government has been taken over by the equivalent of what would be the Tea Party in this country. If you talk to most people in Tel Aviv, I don’t think they’re for what the government is doing, but when it comes to self-defense — Obama himself said the other day: There’s just not another country in the world that would allow missiles to be rained down on them without fighting back. What I find so ironic is that after World War II, everybody said, ‘I don’t understand the Jews. How could they have just gone to their slaughter like that?’ OK, and then when they fight back: ‘I don’t understand the Jews. Why can’t they just go to their slaughter?’ It’s like, ‘You know what? We did that once. It’s not gonna happen again. You’re just gonna have to get used to the fact that Jews now defend themselves — and by the way, defend themselves better. I mean, this is a country, after all, that is surrounded by far greater numbers than their own [and] they are like two generations ahead in the military technology they have.

HJ: Considering the reality of an unstable Middle East, an Iranian nuclear threat, a stalled peace process and a civil war in Syria, what’s the best thing Israel can do to engender moral support from the international community?

 BM: I think they’re over worrying about international goodwill. I hope they are, because it’s great to have but it doesn’t really feed the bulldog, you know? As my Jewish mother used to say, whenever there was a problem in the world, she would go, ‘Oh I know they’re gonna get around to blaming the Jews.’ [Laughs] And it’s kinda true. I mean, you know, it’s like somebody who’s always worrying whether everyone’s gonna like them — Obama kinda had that problem in his first term — but at a certain point you learn: You know what? A lot of people are not gonna like you no matter what you do, so just do what you’re gonna do. Just be yourself. And do what you think is right. And if they condemn you or hate you, that’s really kinda their problem.

Danielle Berrin writes the Hollywood Jew blog, a cutting edge, values-based take on the entertainment industry for jewishjournal.com. 
A Los Angeles Times profile dubbed her ‘a natural born provocateur’ for her commentaries on the business, culture and characters of Hollywood. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, British Esquire and The Huffington Post.

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