The Anguish of Liberation as Reflected in Art 1945-1947
This special on-line exhibition, based on the Yad Vashem Art Collection, features works created between 1945 and 1947 and attempts to investigate how survivors reacted to the liberation through art.
For most of these survivor-artists, the ability to paint again signified freedom and renewed independence. The choice of their art's subject and the grip on the pencil or brush symbolically restored a feeling of control, after years of helplessness. The act of painting represented a process of psychological rehabilitation through which they could synthesize the trauma.
Some artists, like Thomas Geve or Alfred Glück document the very moment of liberation, only several weeks thereafter, while others give expression to the renewed feeling of freedom (Neumann, Zim). In contrast, a group of artists express anguish, solitude and distress via the self-portrait (Bak, Gedő) or by depicting the wasteland that greeted the survivors upon their return home (Bogen, Hechtkopf). On the other hand, Eliazer Neuburger re-interprets the myth of the Wandering Jew by portraying him as a Holocaust survivor. Bordering the survivors' artworks are those of a witness: Zinovii Tolkatchev, who as a soldier in the Red Army provides the viewpoint of the liberator.
When liberation finally arrived, the survivors found themselves torn between feelings of joy and suffering, between their desire to return to life and their need to face the devastation and mourn. The creative process enabled them to confront these conflicting feelings, as Jakob Zim declared: "I live with the shadow and create with the light." His picturesque words exemplify that for the survivors their choice to paint epitomized their renewed embrace of life.
This on-line exhibition is based on a special display in the Museum of Holocaust Art which was open on International Holocaust Remembrance Day marking 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
Eliad Moreh-Rosenberg, Curator and Art Department Director, Museums Division, Yad Vashem.
Yehuda BaconTo the Man who Restored my Belief in Humanity Prague, 1945