University of Minnesota
Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies


Fritz Hirschberger: Sur-Rational Paintings

Fritz Hirschberger

HirschbergerBorn in Dresden, Germany, in 1912. His father came from the Austrian partition lands of Poland in Galicia, and his mother from Bohemia. Both were Jewish. Hirschberger received a traditional liberal arts education in 1930's Dresden. During his studies he developed affection for the painting of the Renaissance, especially the works of Giotto and Dürer, as well as the German Expressionists of the 1920’s.

In 1938, Hirschberger and his family were arrested by the Gestapo, as Polish-Jewish aliens and expelled to Poland, his father’s native land. His family was forced at gunpoint by armed SS men to cross the border into Poland.

In September 1939 Hirschberger fought in the Polish Army against the invading Nazis. After the defeat of Poland on September 15, his regiment no longer existed and he fled into the Soviet Occupied Zone.  Here, Hirschberger was arrested by NKVD the Soviet Secret Police for being a member of the Zionist organization the Betar. Subsequently he was sentenced to 21 years and shipped to a slave labor camp in the Soviet Socialist Republic of Komi, behind the Polar Circle.

On June 22, 1941 Germany invaded the Soviet Union. As a result the Soviets joined the Allies to fight against the German’s. Hirsch Ander's Armyberger, at the time was considered a political prisoner and set free to either fight in the Polish “Anders” Army or Soviet forces. Hirschberger fought with the Ander’s Army in North Africa against General Erwin Rommel and participated in the Battle of Monte Cassino in Italy.

After the war Hershberger, discovered that his father had been killedat the Dora labor camp during the Holocaust but that his fiancée Gisela was alive and living in England. The Hirschberger’s came to America in 1948, settling in New York where he worked with various artists at the New School on 12th Street. In 1984 he and his family moved to San Francisco where he lived until his death on January 8, 2004.

Artist Statement: Fritz Hirschberger (PDF)

Hirschberger: Other Works

The Sur-Rational Holocaust Paintings Gallery

Introduction to the Sur-Rational Paintings by Sheila B. Braufman (PDF)

This exhibition can be booked for loan through CHGS. Terms: No rental fee. Gallery or museum site pays transport expense. Requires 150 running feet of space and secured area.

Photos at the top of the page.

Fritz Hirschberger in uniform of the Polish Anders Army in Berlin, 1946, with "Basia" a German shepherd dog "liberated" from the Germany military after a battle in Italy.

Fritz Hirschberger after El Alamein in the Western Desert 1943.  Hirschberger served in the Polish "Anders" Army.

Linked Photos: Family, Taken in 1913.Fritz is on his mother Hermine's lap. The other people in the photo were friends of the family,the Schäfer's who fed them during World War I. They all remained friends untl til the Hirschberger's were deported from Germany to Poland in 1938. The Schäfer boy in the photo died at the Battle of Kiev.

Father, Photo of Hirschberger's father's ID card.

Infography Award

Pages updated 2012.