Felix Nussbaum’s Artistic Depictions of the Holocaust as It Unfolded

Born in 1904 into a well-to-do German Jewish family, Felix Nussbaum began his professional art career in the 1920s and occasionally painted Jewish themes. When Hitler came to power in 1933, Nussbaum was attending the Berlin Academy of the Arts in Rome, which soon expelled him. He spent the remainder of the decade wandering around Europe, unable to return to his native country. Ro Oranim writes:

The Nazi regime [had] an immediate impact on Nussbaum’s art as he began painting what he saw as the fall of civilization. His painting Destruction reflects his feeling of impending doom, showing a couple standing among the architectural ruins and destroyed artworks. . . .

In 1940, German troops marched on Belgium. Nussbaum, [who was living in Brussels at the time], was arrested, along with 7,000 others, and sent . . . to the internment camp at St. Cyprian. He managed to escape and returned to Brussels where he went into hiding with the help of a friend, an art dealer. Nussbaum . . . drew the horrors of life in the internment camp. His painting Self-portrait in the Camp reflects the inhumane and humiliating conditions he experienced while in St. Cyprian.

Throughout his time in hiding, while living in constant fear for his life, he continued to express himself through his art, persistently chronicling the ever-worsening conditions and his perpetual dread that his hiding spot would be discovered by the authorities. . . . He painted his people, the poor and damned. . . . His final major work, The Skeletons Playing for the Dance, reflected the hopelessness of the situation from his perspective. Skeletons play musical instruments from the ruins of modern society—a cultured society of science, technology, art, and music. Among the skeletons, behind the organ, sits one figure who, while gaunt and malnourished, appears to be alive, suggesting that Nussbaum held out some hope that he would count himself among the survivors—a hope that would never be realized.

The Nazis located Nussbaum in 1944 and put him on the very last transport to Auschwitz, where he died soon after his arrival.

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More about: Arts & Culture, Holocaust, Jewish art

At the UN, Nikki Haley Told the Truth about Israel—and the World Didn’t Burn Down

April 22 2019

Although Nikki Haley had never been to Israel when she took the position of American ambassador to the UN, and had no prior foreign-policy experience, she distinguished herself as one of the most capable and vigorous defenders of the Jewish state ever to hold the position. Jon Lerner, who served as Haley’s deputy during her ambassadorship, sees the key to her success—regarding both Israel and many other matters—in her refusal to abide by the polite fictions that the institution holds sacred:

Myths are sometimes assets in international relations. The fiction that Taiwan is not an independent country, for example, allows [the U.S.] to sustain [its] relationship with China. In other cases, however, myths can create serious problems. On Israel–Palestinian issues, the Trump administration was determined to test some mythical propositions that many had come to take for granted, and, in some cases, to refute them. Haley’s prominence at the UN arose in large part from a conscious choice to reject myths that had pervaded diplomacy on Israel–Palestinian issues for decades. . . .

[For instance], U.S. presidents were intimidated by the argument that recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would trigger violent explosions throughout the Muslim world. President Trump and key colleagues doubted this, and they turned out to be right. Violent reaction in the Palestinian territories was limited, and there was virtually none elsewhere in Arab and Islamic countries. . . .

It turns out that the United States can support Israel strongly and still work closely with Arab states to promote common interests like opposing Iranian threats. The Arab street is not narrowly Israel-minded and is not as volatile as long believed. The sky won’t fall if the U.S. stops funding UN sacred cows like the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine (UNRWA). Even if future U.S. administrations revert to the policies of the past, these old assumptions will remain disproved. That is a valuable accomplishment that will last long after Nikki Haley’s UN tenure.

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More about: Donald Trump, Nikki Haley, United Nations, US-Israel relations