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March 19, 1993 - Image 38

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1993-03-19

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Micah and Shoshana
Hamarri, who built the
aperion, with Tamar
Siegel of Ann Arbor
and Reuven Prager.
Ms. Siegel also
worked on the aperion.



■ mml

the artist was tormented by
the faces of the dead, of for-
mer friend and acquain-
After the war, Aczel went
to Hamburg, Germany. He
had contracted TB and was
In October 1945, Aczel was
lying in the gutter, blood
pouring from his nose, when
he saw a young couple he
had known from Auschwitz.
He called out to them, beg-
ging them to take him home.
He did not want to die alone
on the street.
The couple — their last
name probably was either
Rajgrodzki or Kruger —
agreed to take in Aczel. But
because of his disease, and
because they had a 3-year-
old son, they wouldn't take
Aczel into their house. In-
stead, they offered him shel-
ter in a shack in the back
Aczel lived in this make-
shift home for six months un-
til his death. The closest he
came to human contact was
the meals left outside his
door each day by the family
His one constant compan-
i nn WAS his art eauinment.

The huge canvas, the brush-
es and oil paints were a gift
from his hosts. Aczel pro-
mised to make them a pre-
sent, to thank them for
taking him in. The couple ex-
pected a picture of a flower.
When Aczel died, he left
behind the canvas with this
note: "Thank you for your
hospitality. God bless you."
The painting was large
enough to fill an entire wall.
Among the strangest fea-
tures of the work was a thick,
deep red color covering the
scythe. Today, it is cracked
and dark, believed to be the
artist's own blood.
In 1949, the Rajgrodzki, or
Kruger, family moved to
Boston. They took the paint-
ing with them, transporting
it as though it were a rug.
They later settled on Merid-
ian Avenue in Miami, Fla.,
where for 31 years the paint-
ing hung above their bed.
After the husband died,
the wife — her first name was
Charlotte — remarried. In
1979, her health began to
fail. When a man came to ap-
praise the family furniture,
he noticed the Aczel paint-
ing. Would she be willing to
s ell_it. he asked. He had a

buyer in mind.


euven Prager was
hardly the typical
art connoisseur.
He was a Miami
native, in his early 20s, the
son of a businessman. His in-
terest was strictly Judaica.
Reuven had put the word
out that he was looking for
unusual Jewish art. So he
was happy to speak with the
appraiser and eager see the
Aczel piece.
But he never could have
anticipated what he was
about to experience.
"I knew as soon as I saw it
that I had seen the Holocaust
painting," he says. "It is the
most horrendous, awesome
thing to come out of the Holo-
caust. It sucks the air out of
When he made aliyah, Mr.
Prager took the painting
with him. He offered it to a
Holocaust memorial center
in Jerusalem, but officials
there told him, "We can't
hang that. Visiting digni-
taries from Europe come
here. They won't want to see
this." So Mr. Prager kept the
painting in his home, under
a black-silk curtain to help

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