Felix (Feiwel) Cytrin
Born in Warsaw, Poland, in 1894. Died in New Jersey, United States, in 1971.
Cytrin immigrated to Germany and lived in Leipzig, where he became a successful painter, specializing in portraiture. His works were exhibited in leading galleries in Germany. He married Margarete née Braun, and had a daughter. In the winter of 1942, Cytrin was transported to the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp and assigned to Operation Bernhard – a scam of the Nazi regime to counterfeit British currency, in an attempt to cause the collapse of the Allie's economies. As an expert engraver, Cytrin became a key figure in the group of counterfeiters, and was appointed head of the engraving department. The high quality of the counterfeiting relied, to a great extent, on Cytrin's professionalism. In February 1945, as the Red Army approached Berlin, the group of counterfeiters was hurriedly transported to Mauthausen, in a final effort to counterfeit American dollars. Cytrin was liberated in Ebensee in the spring of 1945. In 1949, he and his wife immigrated to the United States, and settled in New Jersey. In the United States, Cytrin did not resume painting, but focused on tool and die maker and marketing.
As head of the engraving department of Operation Bernard at Sachsenhausen, Cytrin used the art supplies he was given for counterfeiting, to draw portraits of his fellow prisoners. These lively portrayals reflect the multicultural human fabric of those forced to participate in this counterfeiting operation – prisoners requisitioned from many concentration camps, to which they had been transported from all over Europe.
In his naturalistic portraits, Cytrin preserves the heartwarming appearance of the prisoners, as if they had not been captured while interned in a concentration camp. The portraits are drawn in pencil, charcoal and crayons on paper. Most are dated 1944 or 1945. On the back of each portrait, the artist added information about the subject, such as the person's name, occupation or background. He kept the portraits in a small portfolio that he made, which he managed to keep with him until his liberation.
Yad Vashem holds 42 of Cytrin's portraits, which were recently donated in view of this exhibition.