Arthur (Alter) Ritov
"In addition to his talent as an artist, Arthur also exhibited compassion. […]. It was as if he had been sent to us to inspire each one of us with a touch of bravery and infuse us with vitality: as long as we are still alive, we are not to lose faith in the Jewish people and their survival." Meir Levinstein, On the Edge of the Abyss,
(trans. from Russian) Hebrew edition, Moreshet, Israel, 1975, p. 56.
Born in Riga, Russian Empire, in 1909. Died in Tel-Aviv, Israel, in 1988.
Graduate of the Art Academy of Latvia, in Riga. After completing his studies, he taught art in various schools. Following the German occupation in July 1941, he was deported to the ghetto at the end of October and, several months later, was transferred to the "small ghetto". He was conscripted for forced labor in an HKP unit, at a German army workshop for refurbishing vehicles for the Eastern Front. His assignment was to paint license plates for the vehicles. In July 1944, three months before the Red Army entered Riga, he escaped from the ghetto with a relative, Jacob Ritov and five other prisoners. Three of his companions were shot and killed during the escape. That night, along with Jacob Ritov, he found refuge in the home of a Latvian named Mottmiller, who already hid other Jews. They remained in hiding until liberation, on October 13, 1944. Arthur Ritov immigrated to Israel in 1970, and settled in Tel-Aviv.
During the years 1942-1944, Ritov clandestinely portrayed inmates at the HKP repair facility in the Riga ghetto. He drew the portraits on plain paper, which he used for drawing the license plates. When he returned to his barracks from his forced labor assignment, he would secretly draw his friends' faces, in a realistic-expressive style. In these portraits, he succeeded to capture the unique character of each of the prisoners, imbuing them with a sense of life. Ritov signed and dated each drawing. He hid them under the closets in the dressing room of the barracks. After the war, Ritov returned to the barracks, where he found all of his drawings unharmed. Over time, he added the name of each subject, and his fate, on the back of each drawing.
Yad Vashem holds 47 of Ritov’s portraits in its collection.