UPCOMING SCREENINGS & EVENTS

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"This film imbues in its audience the sense of sorrow and respect   that the masterpiece, Life is Beautiful, brought to the screen."  

- Moving Pictures Magazine

The Artists

Dina Gottliebova Babbitt 

Felton, California

 

was born in Brno, Czechoslovakia in 1923. She was a 19-year-old  art student when she was sent to Theresienstadt. In 1943, Babbitt  and her mother were deported to Auschwitz, where they were kept  in a special Family Camp. Babbitt tried to cheer the children by painting  a mural on the barrack wall of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs."

 

The mural attracted the attention of the notorious Dr. Mengele, the Angel of Death, known for his horrific medical experiments. Frustrated that modern color photography could not accurately capture the skin tones of his Gypsy “patients,” Mengele ordered Babbitt to paint watercolor portraits of them. One of her subjects was a girl named Celine, who became a friend. Celine is shown with a blue scarf and one ear protruding. Babbitt explains, “Because Mengele,” obsessed with ideas of racial purity, “wanted to see how the ear was formed.” Soon after Babbitt completed 11 portraits, the entire Gypsy camp was gassed, Celine with them.  

 

Seven of the 11 portraits that saved Babbitt remain where she created them, on display at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Poland. "These are my paintings; they belong to me, my soul is in them, and without these paintings I wouldn’t be alive,” she says. Babbitt has requested that the “Gypsies” be returned to her but the Museum refuses, claiming they do not belong to her but are part of the Polish National Treasury and must remain as evidence of the history of Nazi atrocities. The pieces here are photographic copies sent by the Auschwitz Museum.

 

A Congressional resolution supports Babbitt’s request. Groups petitioning support

of Babbitt’s claim on her paintings are trying to sway the Auschwitz-Birkenau

State Museum, thus far to no avail. More than 450 artists, including animators

Stan Lee and Neal Adams, support her position. If you would like more information on how to support Babbitt’s cause, please visit: www.DinaBabbitt.com.

AS SEEN THROUGH THESE EYES

Yehuda Bacon

Jerusalem, Israel

 

was born in Czechoslovakia to a Chassidic family. In 1941, he was sent to Theresienstadt at the age of thirteen, where he began to draw.  While in Theresienstadt, he studied under the direction of artists Otto  Unger, Bedrich Fritta and Leo Hass. But his mentor was Dr. Karel Fleischmann who was ultimately put

to death for his revealing sketches of the ghastly ghetto life. In 1943 Bacon was deported to Auschwitz.

 

One day he was brought to the commandant because they discovered a sketch he made. He was beaten badly for this act of resistance. But while he was in custody, his entire barracks was sent to the gas chambers. His life was spared due to his art.  After liberation in 1946, he emigrated Israel where he studied art at the Bezalel Academy of Art and then continued his studies in Italy, London, New York and Paris.

 

A short time following his liberation from Auschwitz, the teenage survivor-artist drew a portrait of his father who perished in the death camp. The haunting image of his father whose life was ended in the furnaces of Auschwitz is reconstructed by the son who still remembers the father he was recently separated from. “This recollection will never be eradicated once committed it to paper”, he says. In 1961 Bacon testified at the Eichmann trial. Bacon lectured in the art department of Haifa University and at the Bezalel Academy of Art, Jerusalem.

 

Samuel Bak

Boston, Massachusetts

 

was born in 1933 in Vilna, Poland, a vibrant cultural center known as the “Jerusalem of Lithuania.” He was recognized as a small child of possessing extraordinary artistic genius.  When he was six years old, the Nazis’ invaded Vilna and Bak’s world was shattered forever. Shortly after the German occupation, Bak and his family were forced into the Ghetto where ironically his painting career began. When the famous Yiddish poets, Avrom Sutzkever and Shmerke Kaczerginski discovered his early talent, despite the dehumanizing conditions and the ever-present threat of deportation to the killing fields of the nearby Ponary Forest, they arranged for the child prodigy the first public exhibition of his drawings at the age of nine. Bak says, “The people needed simply for the sake of their own soul, of their own identity, of their own survival, they needed culture. They needed something to give a meaning to their life.”

 

When Vilna was liberated in 1944, Bak was one of only 200 survivors from a once thriving community of over 80,000 people. Bak immigrated in 1948 to Israel. He studied art at the Bezalel School in Jerusalem and at the Ecole Nationale des Beaus-Arts in Paris.

 

Bak’s life has been clearly marked by his pervasive haunting childhood memories of the Shoah. He says, “I carry in me today the survivor of the million children that did not survive.”  He tells stories with his brush through metaphors of human destruction and irreparable loss and dreams that mirror his past with the present. Bak imbues his paintings with an irony that parallel some of the works of Rene Magritte, Max Ernst and Giorgio de Chirico. However, Bak’s paintings become a complex process of healing. Samuel Bak’s artistic vision unwittingly becomes both witness to inhumanity and reconstruction for the future.

 

Judith Goldstein

New Rochelle, New York

 

was born in 1932 in Vilna, Poland, now the capital of Lithuania. Germany invaded the city in 1941, and several months later all the Jews were placed in a Ghetto. Seventy thousand people were murdered by gunshot in the nearby Ponary Forest, within two years. After the liquidation of the Ghetto, in 1943, she and her mother then spent two years in concentration camps in Poland and Latvia: first Riga, then Stutthof and Torun. In 1945 Goldstein, her mother and aunt were liberated in Bydgoszez, Poland. By many miracles they survived. After the war they were sent to a Displaced Persons camp in Germany, and in 1949 she finally made her way to the United States.

 

Goldstein reports: “I wish I was never part of the Holocaust. Still a child of seven, I was meant to die, but I lived and survived the horrors of genocide. Many times I tried to leave it all behind, but it refuses to leave me.”

 

Goldstein says; “I paint the images of my childhood and play the images I see.”  “I feel very lucky to have survived and have been given the opportunity to turn to my experiences of horror into works of art and musical compositions. I undertook a painful journey, but what I’ve seen through these eyes, I made a vow to record my childhood memories, as they were.”

 

Her canvases are filled with imagery and metaphors of the Holocaust. Her approach is sometimes disarming. Goldstein says, “My life was gray, but now, reflecting back, I see it through multi-color pastels. My invisible witnesses help me reconstruct scenes that I was a part of and must share with the world so they will never forget.”

IMG_7001_198134002_std yehuda bacon pic Bak cropped close Judith photo cropped Fred Terna

Frederick Terna

Brooklyn, New York

 

was born in Vienna in 1923 to a family from Prague.  In 1941 he was taken to Lipa and from there to Thereseienstadt where he got his first art lessons. Terna learned sketching from a distant cousin, the German Expressionist, Bedrich Fritta. Fritta was ultimately killed for his revealing political art. When Terna was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, he gave his clandestine artwork to a colleague for safe-keeping. In 1944 Terna was transported from Auschwitz to Kaufering, a sub-camp of Dachau. As World War II was ending, the Nazis herded their prisoners into cattle cars for a last ride to Dachau. Terna managed to prop open a door to the train and he and friend jumped out. The prisoners who remained on the train all perished. Terna was liberated near Landsberg in Bavaria. Weighing 77 pounds, he hid in a hole until he was found by American soldiers.

 

In 1946, he went to Paris and in 1952 he settled in New York, where he continues to live. Terna became an internationally recognized artist and scholar, whose work is included in a number of collections including the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. In the 1970s Terna discovered that his hidden pieces from Theresienstadt survived and were archived at Beit Theresienstadt in Israel.

 

 

 News: We are saddened to share the news of  the passing of Dina  Babbitt.  Watch the animation on Dina's life created by comic book icons Neal Adams and Stan Lee click here