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November 27, 1981 - Image 25

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1981-11-27

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

Friday, November 21, 1981 25

The 'Art of the Holocaust' Reveals the Human Spirit

By DR. GUY STERN

Wayne State University

"Writing on the 'art of the
Holocaust' required of us, in
the interest of the book, a
self-impossed emotional de-
tachment which was hard to
maintain," said Dr. Sybil
Milton, author of an art
book of the same title. She
was addressing an informal
breakfast meeting called
Nov. 18 by Rabbi Eli Fin-
kelman, director of Wayne
State's Hillel Foundation,
in recognition of the book's
recent publication by Rut-
ledge Press for William
Smith Publishers of New
York.
The impressive folio-size
volume with upward of 330
reproductions and com-
prehensive introductory es-
says has, since its appear-
ance, been favorably and
prominently reviewed by
major American newspap-
ers and magazines. Interna-
tional editions in German,
French, Dutch, and Hebrew
appear likely after the
enthusiastic reception for
"Art of the Holocaust" at the
recent Frankfurt Interna-
tional Book Fair.
Dr. Milton, in Detroit for
the Jewish Book Fair and
for a series of radio and tele-
vision interviews, told her
Hillel audience of the
genesis of her book. "I was
sitting in my office in New
York; suddenly the draw-
. ings on tiny postage stamps
caught my eye. The post
mark said Gurs, France,
once the site of a Vichy in-
ternment camp, later taken
over by the Nazi occupation
forces.
"The tiny drawings

were moving testimony
to man's incredible in-
humanity to man, but
also to the unquenchable,
indomitable spirit of
human creativity. Is
there more surviving art,
I asked niyself, from the
time of the Holocaust?
And that-question and
quest led me on a global
search.

"I found clandestine art,
created under the threat of
death for the artist and
stemming from all the
notorious and well-known
concentration camps as well
as from camps of which vir-
tually no one knew about.
These drawings, paintings,
even sculptures were
created under duress and
degradation in the face of
the gas chambers, with im-
provised materials.
"Paper filched from pack-
ages, thinned-out ink, rust,
vegetable dyes were the raw
material; what emerges was
often great art, always
gripping, and until now to-
tally ignored by art his-
tories and standard art
reference works."
Dr. Milton strove to
create a representative vol-
ume. "We set ourselves
strict guidelines. We in-
cluded only works by pro-
fessional artists, men and
women who were artists be-
- fore their imprisonment or
who survived the death
camps and rose to the pro-
- fessional ranks. We also
show some pictures that





DR. SYBIL MILTON

were 'commissioned' by
Nazi guards or officials; the
difference between those
works and the others
created out of an urge of
spiritual survival is drama-
tic. The one is perfunctory;
the other reaches the very
limits of the artist's gift —
or surpasses them."

"Incredible, how much
art was created," she

Knesseters Trip
Deemed Success

NEW YORK (JTA) —
Two senior members of the
Israeli Knesset delegation
to the United States, Likud
MK Moshe Arens, head of
the delegation, and Labor
MK Chaim Herzog, said
their mission was "in many
ways a success" due to the
bi-partisan nature of the
six-member delegation and
the recent turn of events in
the Mideast, such as the as-
sassination of President
Anwar Sadat and the Se-
nate approval of the
AWACS sale to Saudi
Arabia — events which fo-
cused attention on the dele-
gation.
Arens and Herzog, speak-
ing at a press conference at
the Israeli Consulate here,
said that in view of the "un-
precedented interest" by the
American media in the
delegation — which came to
the U.S. to explain Israel's
opposition to the eight-point
plan of Crown Prince Fand
of Saudi Arabia — they are
going to recommend, upon
their return to Israel, that
more MKs be sent to the
U.S. for information pur-
poses.
Arens said that the main
message of the delegation to
American officials in Wash-
ington and the media was
that the "Mideast peace
process is in danger of being
derailed," and that the
Saudi plan was primarily
designed for the "dismem-
berment" of the state of Is-
rael.

Settlement Poll

JERUSALEM (ZINS) —
A poll by the Public Opinion
Research Institute shows
that 48.8 percent of Israelis
favor more Jewish settle-
ments in, Judea and
Samaria, 30.3 percent are
opposed and 20.8 percent
had no opinion. In April, 51
percent were in favor, 42
percent were opposed and
seven percent were unde-
cided.

continued. "Incredible
the fact that roughly
one-third of it survived.
Incredible the means by
which it did." The con-
centration camp artists,
painting or sculpting
when they could hardly
stand up anymore in the
evening, buried the
finished works in the
ground, for example in
milk bottles, where they
or former fellow inmates
retrieved the works after
the war. Or they smug-
gled them out via slave
laborers working outside
the camp or they im-
mured drawings in walls.

"One famous artist hol-
lowed out a copy of Hitler's
'Mein Kampf and hid draw-
ings in there. Occasionally a
guard, either for a bribe or
because he liked art, con-
nived at the preservation of
the works."
Dr. Milton, in response to
a question, told some of the
stories of the artists repre-
sented in her book. "With
each picture we uncovered
we also gathered a story,
harrowing in its tale of suf-
fering, sustaining in its tes-
timony to the persistence
and courage of the human
spirit.
"There is the story of
Maria Hiszpanska -
Neumann in Ravensbruck.
A guard discovered that her
dress was too bulky for an
emaciated woman. He had
her strip, discovered the pic-
tures, beat and tormented
her, and threw the pictures
into an outdoor fire. She
lived, and drew more pic-
tures."

The
well-known
caricaturist Leo Haas,
now living in East Ger-
many, was likewise dis-
covered by the Nazis.
Condemned to death, he
got a last-minute reprieve
for the convenience of the
government because Hit-
ler was gathering artists
from the death camps to
have them forge U.S. and
British currency, under
the so-called "Operation
Bernhard," conducted at
the Sachsenhausen con-
centration camp.

Dr. Milton concurred
with this reviewer that her
book reveals a variety of
styles and moods of expres-
sion rather than a unified
"art of the Holocaust."
"Yes," she agreed, "in the
dehumanization of the
camps the artist reverted to
his own, most-individual
style to assert him or her-
self. Or he would imitate
past masters to reaffirm the
cultural tradition amidst
the denial of all culture and
civilization."
In the evening, Dr. Milton
addressed an attentive
crowd at the Jewish Com-
munity Center under the
auspices of the Jewish Book
Fair. In a lecture, illus-
trated by slides from her
book, she stressed that art,
beyond individual expres-
sion, was also a means of re-
sistance against the oppres-
sors.
"Metal that went into the
sculpture, no matter how

FOR THE FINEST

tiny the amount and even if you; form and color are sub-
commissioned by the most ordinated to the emotion to
notorious camp comman- be transmitted."
ders, was thereby withheld
This judgment char-
from the German war ef- acterizes an extraordinary
fort." "Also, art was a means book, to be bought and
of communication between cherished not only in mem-
disparate groups, Spanish ory of a time of horror, but of
resistance fighters and those who opposed it with
German - Jewish internees, the expressivity of their art
Jews and non-Jews, politi- and the gallantry of their
cal and apolitical pris- spirit.
oners."

P H

0 T O G R A

P

WEDDINGS

H„

T

BAR MITZVAS

-

BERNIE

WINER

and ASSOCIATES

357-1010

In describing her
global search, Dr. Milton,
the chief archivist of the
New York Leo Baeck In-
stitute (which is a repos-
itory of the German -
Jewish heritage), paid
tribute to the foresight of
those who gathered and
lovingly preserved the
art works after the war.

"Without the devotion of
individual artists or their
survivors and such insti-
tutes as YIVO and the Leo
Baeck Institute, this mov-
ing testimony would not be
in existence now," she said.
A prominent artist in the
audience, Robert Broner of
Wayne State University,
whose works are on exhibit
in major national and in-
ternational galleries, sum-
marized the impact of the
lecture and the book for this
reviewer:
"I was struck by the in-
tensity of the works. The ar-
tists' passion springs out at

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