The Work of a Unique Jewish Artist, Murdered by the Nazis, Finally on Display as Its Creator Intended

Nov. 21 2017

Born in Berlin in 1917, Charlotte Salomon fled Germany for France in 1938, following Kristallnacht. After France fell to the Nazis, she was briefly interned in a concentration camp, subsequently released, and trekked on foot to temporary safety in Italian-controlled Nice. There, in the space of several months, she produced over 1,000 small paintings and shaped them into a single work. When the Holocaust caught up with Nice, she went into hiding but eventually was apprehended by the Nazis and sent to Auschwitz, where she was gassed along with her unborn child. The Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam has now put on display, for the first time in its entirety, her masterpiece titled Life? Or Theater? It has also been published in a single volume. Griselda Pollock writes:

[M]ade up of 784 paintings, this single work demonstrates a dazzling variety of painterly modes, from detailed vignettes on a single page to freely painted fields of color with barely established figures. Three-hundred-and-thirty of the paintings combine image with text placed in beautiful configurations on tracing-paper overlays. Elsewhere, words are painted directly onto the paintings, serving as ironic commentary or dialogue. There are pages of pure text, also painted, that preface and conclude the work, which is fronted by a playbill with Brechtian character names, suggesting an almost satirical theatrical form, and presented with a title page, a somber memorial page, and an anonymous author’s preface. Salomon referred to her work as “my book” and signed it with a cipher, CS, veiling both her gender and her Jewish ethnicity.

[I]n 1942, Salomon arranged and numbered the paintings into three sections. A prologue paints a saga of life and death in Berlin between 1913 and 1936 of four women: a teenager who commits suicide by drowning, a mother (Salomon’s older sister) who leaps from a window, the grieving mother of both women, who is also the grandmother of the bereaved child, and a stepmother who is a beautiful singer. After Hitler’s takeover of Germany forces the child, now a teenager, out of school, she decides to become an artist.

A main section, the largest part, covers in intense detail 1937–8, when the art student encounters a survivor of World War I who preaches a philosophy of art and life drawn from Michelangelo and the works of Nietzsche. . . .

Each section is painted in a different mode. The prologue demonstrates an astonishing ability to weave an integrated whole out of many tiny scenes. There are brilliant composites painted with telling details of domestic interiors, train stations, holiday travels, encounters with art in Venice and Rome, as well as single-image paintings that capture the often agonized inner world and imagined memories of several women. . . . History brutally erupts with paintings of riotous fascist crowds. . . .

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Read more at Times Literary Supplement

More about: Art, Arts & Culture, German Jewry, Holocaust

By Recognizing Israeli Sovereignty over the Golan, the U.S. Has Freed Israel from “Land for Peace”

March 25 2019

In the 52 years since Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria, there have been multiple efforts to negotiate their return in exchange for Damascus ending its continuous war against the Jewish state. Shmuel Rosner argues that, with his announcement on Thursday acknowledging the legitimacy of Jerusalem’s claim to the Golan, Donald Trump has finally decoupled territorial concessions from peacemaking:

[With] the takeover of much of Syria by Iran and its proxies, . . . Israel had no choice but to give up on the idea of withdrawing from the Golan Heights. But this reality involves a complete overhaul of the way the international community thinks not just about the Golan Heights but also about all of the lands Israel occupied in 1967. . . .

Withdrawal worked for Israel once, in 1979, when it signed a peace agreement with Egypt and left the Sinai Peninsula, which had also been occupied in 1967. But that also set a problematic precedent. President Anwar Sadat of Egypt insisted that Israel hand back the entire peninsula to the last inch. Israel decided that the reward was worth the price, as a major Arab country agreed to break with other Arab states and accept Israel’s legitimacy.

But there was a hidden, unanticipated cost: Israel’s adversaries, in future negotiations, would demand the same kind of compensation. The 1967 line—what Israel controlled before the war—became the starting point for all Arab countries, including Syria. It became a sacred formula, worshiped by the international community.

What President Trump is doing extends far beyond the ability of Israel to control the Golan Heights, to settle it, and to invest in it. The American president is setting the clock back to before the peace deal with Egypt, to a time when Israel could argue that the reward for peace is peace—not land. Syria, of course, is unlikely to accept this. At least not in the short term. But maybe someday, a Syrian leader will come along who doesn’t entertain the thought that Israel might agree to return to the pre-1967 line and who will accept a different formula for achieving peace.

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More about: Donald Trump, Golan Heights, Israel & Zionis, Peace Process, Sinai Peninsula, Syria