Holocaust is a global tragedy of the world community, which has been a crucial point in the development of the European nation. Even though it was not easy to express the creative interpretation of this topic in art works after this wasting catastrophe, many artists appealed to this theme. Among them were Jewish painters, who have gone through the suffering and destitution, which however did not break theirs soul and talents. This paper aims to analyze the course of live and creative heritage of Dinah Gottliebova and Samuel Bak related to the representation of the Holocaust.
During the World War II, Dinah Gottliebova was a prisoner of the concentration camp Auschwitz, where she firstly applied her artistic talent. Unfortunately, the purpose of her painting was not noble in that place: “It was there, because of her arts training and her painting of a mural of Snow White in the children’s barracks with smuggled paints, that Dr. Josef Mengele discovered her and forced her over the next months to paint Roma and Sinti to document his pseudo-scientific theories of racial inferiority and his medical experiments” (Kreder, 2008, p. 21).
In her paintings, Dinah Gottliebova depicted the sufferings and histories of real people – the prisoners of the concentration camp. It is not easy to consider the artistic influence on the style of the artist. The one thing is evident: this person with her talent was able to create such paintings that other artists could not repeat due to the lack of bitter experience of survival in the severe conditions of war, humiliation, genocide, and destitution, which the Jewish nation faced in those years.
Even though the paintings of Dinah Gottliebova seem to be simple, such simplicity of plot underlies the speechless horror that the humankind and the prisoners of the concentration camps, in particular, have experienced. The paintings of Dinah Gottliebova, thus, are the embodiment of silence and grief that are the only possible reaction to the things that happened in Auschwitz.
Samuel Bak is a Jewish artist, who has survived in Vilna Ghetto. Even though he was a child at the time of the Holocaust, that experience of survival has influenced him and his further artistic style that combined the peculiarities of surrealism, cubism, modernism, and pop art. In his creative work he appeals to the eternal themes, but at the same time, the decisive motive of his art is the pain of loss. Therefore, according to Pols (2010), “Bak characterizes his painting as “speaking about the unspeakable”.
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For instance, in his painting “Family”, the artist depicts the members of his family, who died in the years of the genocide. This artistic work is a tribute to the love of the family chains that were broken due to the inhuman violence. The eyes of the characters, depicted in the painting, express a speechless sorrow symbolizing all victims of the Holocaust. This painting is an illustrative example of the magnitude of art that can express the variety of feelings and emotions by the means of artistic expression. Moreover, Samuel Bak has managed to accumulate his memories and the sufferings of the Jewish nation so as to express them in the symbolic painting that speaks louder than any words.
In conclusion, post-Holocaust artists have attempted to depict the nightmare landscapes of that time (Socha, 2010, p. 77) by the means of art. The artistic heritage of Dinah Gottliebova and Samuel Bak is an illustrative example of the strength of mind of these people, who have experienced the horrors of the concentration camps and stayed alive. Their paintings embody their experience and pain, their sorrow and wisdom, maturity and artistic reinterpretation of the awful tragedy that happened to the humankind in the 20th century.
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