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Yad Vashem The Story of the Jewish Community of Plonsk

Jacob Lifschitz

"Life in the ghetto further broke my spirits, and I am unable to return to myself. I paint a little, and I sketch what one finds here. But I cannot return to myself." From: Confession, an artistic menifesto by Jacob Lifschitz,
which was buried along with his artworks in the ghetto, 6.3.1944, Yad Vashem
  • Profile of a Woman, Kovno Ghetto, 1942
  • Portrait of a Man Wearing a Hat, Kovno Ghetto, 1942
  • Portrait of a Woman, Kovno Ghetto, 1944
  • Man with Tilted Head, Kovno Ghetto, c.1943
  • Eliahu Taitz, Kovno Ghetto, 1942
  • Rivka Burstein, Kovno Ghetto, 1942
  • Bella Berlowitz, Kovno Ghetto, 1941
  • Lea (Lisa) Lifschitz - the artists’ wife, Kovno Ghetto, 1944
  • Izia Rosenkranz, Kovno Ghetto, 1943
  • Self-portrait, Kovno Ghetto, 1943

Born in Kovno, Russian Empire, in 1903. Murdered in Dachau, in March 1945.

Lifschitz was a graduate of the Kovno Art Institute, where he taught printing techniques. He also illustrated textbooks and participated in exhibitions. Following the German occupation, he was deported to the ghetto on August 24, 1941. Despite being given the opportunity to engage in art, he joined the labor brigades and was employed in ghetto workshops. In the evenings, he would climb to the attic of the building, where he lived with wife Lisa and daughter Pepa, to draw and paint. Following the Kinderaktion, Jacob and Lisa smuggled their daughter out of the ghetto, to the home of the Zabielavicius family, Lithuanian friends who lived in the village of Virbalis. At the initiative of the Ältestenrat to document life in the ghetto, Lifschitz joined a group of artists who portrayed daily life. With the approach of the Red Army, Lifschitz encouraged his wife to escape from the ghetto and helped her do so. When the ghetto was liquidated in the summer of 1944, he was transported to the Dachau Concentration Camp, and from there to forced labor in the Kaufering Concentration Camp. Due to the severe conditions and his poor emotional state, Lifschitz died of starvation in March 1945.

In his portraits, Lifschitz focused on intimate portrayals of acquaintances. His portraits are marked with sorrow, reflecting the despair and helplessness of the ghetto's inmates. On the advice of the artist Esther Lurie, he buried over one hundred of his works, his artistic manifesto and a few photographs, in ceramic pots in the cemetery. After the war, his wife and daughter returned to the ruins of the ghetto and retrieved his artwork. Eventually, 73 of the portraits were brought to Yad Vashem.