MORRISTOWN, NJ.- The Morris Museum
commemorates International Holocaust Remembrance Day (January 27) and the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz with an exhibition of paintings by David Friedmann (1893-1980), a renowned portraitist in Berlin and Prague before his deportation to Lodz Ghetto in 1941. The works on view portray Friedmanns haunting memories of survival during the Holocaust, from life in the Ghetto, to internment at Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp and sub camps Gleiwitz I and Blechhammer until his liberation in 1945. The selected works, created in Prague from 1945-1948, are part of a series entitled, Because They Were Jews!
David Friedman (1893-1980) was born in what is now the Czech Republic where he was acclaimed for his portraits drawn from life. In 1924, his quick-sketching ability led to an additional career as a freelance newspaper press artist. He produced hundreds of portraits of famous contemporary personalities such as Albert Einstein, Arnold Schönberg and Thomas Mann. After Hitler came to power in 1933, his successful prewar career ended and he fled to Prague with his family in 1938, continuing to produce art illustrating the harrowing events of his time. In 1941, the Nazi authorities looted his oeuvre of 2,000 works in Berlin and Prague. Friedman continued his work as a refugee in Prague, then as a prisoner in the Lodz Ghetto, in the Auschwitz sub-camp, Gleiwitz1 where his wife and little daughter perished. Torn from his memories, he created the powerful series, Because They Were Jews! The artwork shows the evolution of the Holocaust from his deportation to the Lodz Ghetto and several concentration camps until liberation. He never stopped painting throughout his postwar journey from Czechoslovakia to Israel to New York, Chicago and St. Louis, where he died at the age of eighty-six. Friedman is recognized internationally and his works are displayed in the permanent exhibition of the Holocaust History Museum, Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, among other institutions and museums.
Through hunger and sickness, Friedmann kept a diary and painted scenes of his family and the infernal life in the Ghetto. His art, his diary, would be his testimony, but they were destroyed. He believed there was a reason for his survival to show the world the persecution, torment, and agony as practiced by the Nazis, in the hope that such barbarism would never happen again. He portrayed what he had witnessed and experienced, sometimes depicting himself as the prisoner with the eyeglasses. He supplemented his drawings and paintings with descriptions to create a singularly detailed pictorial and written record of the Holocaust.