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New Exhibit at Yad Vashem: Charlotte Salomon: Life? Or Theater?

12 June 2006

On Friday, June 16, 2006, at 11:30, a new art exhibit will open in Yad Vashems Exhibitions Pavilion. Charlotte Salomon: Life? Or Theater? is an illustrated biographical play, which depicts the life story of Charlotte and the extended Salomon family in Germany. The paintings are accompanied by music and narration written by Charlotte. The exhibition displays a selection of some 280 works of art from the 1300-page Life? Or Theater? portfolio created by Charlotte Salomon during her forced exile in the South of France between 1940-1942.

The opening ceremony will take place in the presence of HE Bob Hiensch, Ambassador of the Netherlands in Israel, Joel Cahen, Director of the Jewish Historical Museum, Amsterdam, and Avner Shalev, Chairman of the Yad Vashem Directorate.

The exhibit will run in Yad Vashems Exhibitions Pavilion until October 1, 2006, and was organized by the Jewish Historical Museum, Amsterdam. The Yad Vashem exhibition was curated by Yehudit Shendar and Eliad Moreh Rosenberg. It was made possible with the generous support of Le Comite Francais Pour Yad Vashem, France, and Stichting Vrieden van Yad Vashem, Netherlands.

Life? Or Theater?

In Life? or Theater? we watch the drama of the Jews in Germany unfold, the analysis of the relationships within a doomed family and also the sensitive coming to terms with the self: Charlotte Salomons oeuvre is firmly autobiographical. Switching between public and private, Charlotte also presents an unflinching account of the political events of her time. Thus we witness the increasingly oppressive measures taken against Jews in the 1930s, such as Kristallnacht (1938), resulting in the forced retreat of the Salomon family from public life and the fathers temporary stay in a concentration camp, the final farewell and emigration. These political tragedies are interwoven with personal events, most prominently the suicide of Charlottes mother and grandmother.

Charlotte Salomon has increasingly become appreciated as a unique artistic achievement, and at the same time her art has become one of the most significant artistic witnesses of the Holocaust. Charlotte Salomons artwork is displayed in two additional places at Yad Vashem: The Holocaust History Museum, where panels from Life? Or Theater? can be viewed in the gallery depicting Nazi Germany between 1933-1938; and in the Museum of Holocaust Art, where a selection of her paintings from her time in the French Riviera are on display.

Charlotte Salomon 1917 - 1943

The art of Charlotte Salomon is the expression of a unique personality and biography, which ended in Auschwitz. Salomon is renowned for the vast opus she made before her deportation, entitled, Life? Or Theater?.

Salomon was born on April 16, 1917, the only daughter of Dr. Albert Salomon and his wife, Franziska, assimilated Jewish Berliners. In 1935 she was admitted to the State Academy of Fine Arts in Berlin. During the course of her studies, she was awarded the Academy Prize, although for "racial" reasons, the prize was revoked. With the worsening situation in Germany, her father decided to send her to Southern France. In 1940 Charlotte began to work on the series, Life? Or Theater?, completing it in 1942, and dedicated it to Ottilie Moore, an American expatriate, in whose house she had been living.

On September 21, 1943, Charlotte and her husband Alexander Nagler were transported to Drancy. On October 7, both were deported to Auschwitz, where Charlotte, pregnant, was murdered upon arrival. Alexander died in January 1944 in Auschwitz.