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Deutsches Historisches Museum


Art from the Holocaust

“Thank you for letting us see this in Berlin”

The Pei Building in Berlin, the annex to the Museum of German History, first floor. Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel takes her time as she views a unique exhibition before the official opening: Art from the Holocaust – 100 Works from the Yad Vashem Collection. All of the drawings graphic works and paintings were created by Jewish artists during the Holocaust. They are on show for the first time outside Israel.

The exhibition starts with a painting by Felix Nussbaum. It is titled The Refugee and dates from 1939. The picture shows a long wooden table. At the end on the right, a man sits hunched on a stool, arms clenched between his knees, his hands covering his face in despair.  Next to him is a packed bundle with a walking stick propped over it. A globe is standing on the table as if from the old schooldays. On the left an arched opening leads outdoors with trees and hills in the background.

When Felix Nussbaum painted this picture, he and his wife Felka Platek had already been fleeing the Nazis for seven years. They were both murdered by the SS in Auschwitz in 1944. The poet and writer Christoph Heubner has described the fate of the two artists in a fictitious diary. A staged reading with this text was performed at the Permanent Representation of Lower Saxony. (see here)

During the opening event, Federal Chancellor Merkel stressed that art makes it possible to sense some of the strength and the suffering of human beings. “The pictures reveal a daily life that lies beyond everyday life.”
Despite all the concerns in Israel, it was possible to bring the paintings to Berlin thanks in part to the initiative by Kai Diekmann (BILD) and the Stiftung für Kunst und Kultur.

Angela Merkel wrote in the visitors’ book: “Deeply moving. Thank you for letting us see this in Berlin.”

Guests at the opening event in the Museum of German History included the two Auschwitz survivors Eva Fahidi from Budapest and Marian Turski from Warsaw. Angela Merkel greeted them very warmly. They had both met the Chancellor last year at the joint ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz in Berlin organised in cooperation with the International Auschwitz Committee.


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