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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. . . .

Read more at Times Literary Supplement

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

Hamas’s Dangerous Escalation in Gaza

June 22 2018

As Hamas has stepped up its attacks on communities near the Gaza Strip—using incendiary devices attached to kites and balloons—Israel has begun to retaliate more forcefully. In response, the terrorist group has begun firing rockets and mortars into Israel. Yoav Limor comments:

What made Wednesday’s rocket salvo different is that ‎unlike previous flare-ups on the border [since 2014], this time it ‎was Hamas operatives who fired at Israel, as opposed ‎to Islamic Jihad or the ‎rogue terrorist group in the coastal enclave. ‎Still, Hamas made sure the attack followed most of ‎the familiar “rules”—only [firing] at night and only at the ‎ communities in the vicinity of Gaza, and apparently while also ‎trying to minimize any casualties, to avoid further ‎escalation. ‎. . .

The first reason [for the shift in tactics] is Israel’s own change of policy ‎with regard to kite terrorism. It took Israel far ‎too long to define the incessant waves of incendiary ‎kites sent over the border as actionable acts of ‎terror, but once it did, the IDF began ‎systematically countering them, including firing ‎warning shots at terrorist kite cells and targeting ‎Hamas assets in Gaza in retaliation.‎

The second reason is Hamas’s own frustration and ‎distress in Gaza. Since the border-riot campaign was ‎launched on March 30, some 150 of its operatives ‎have been killed and the Israeli military has ‎carried out over 100 strikes on Hamas positions in ‎the coastal enclave, all while Hamas has nothing to ‎show for it. ‎In this situation, Hamas is searching for [some sort of victory] by declaring that “bombings will be ‎met with bombings,” as Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum ‎said Wednesday, in order to portray itself as defending Gaza from ‎Israel.‎ . . .

Hamas is banking on Israel opting against a military ‎campaign in Gaza at this time so as not to split its ‎focus from the [developments in Syria], but it is sorely ‎mistaken if it thinks Israel will simply contain ‎kite terrorism or shy away from action given the new ‎equation it has presented. ‎At some point, Israel’s patience will expire.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security