University of Minnesota
Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies


Alice Lok Cahana

Alice Lok Cahana is an artist and survivor of Auschwitz from Hungary. Her work describes the terror and uncertainty of a selection, when prisoners were chosen for slave labor or death. Cahana was scheduled to be gassed in October, 1944 at Birkenau when the Sonderkommando uprising took place on October 7. She was ordered, along with other women, out of the gas chamber and survived. Her story has been documented in the documentary film, The Last Days.

Artworks: Witness and Legacy

Abraham, Sara and Auschwitz

Alice Lok Cahana
Abraham, Sara and Auschwitz,1991 Oil on canvas, collage

This painting brings together, in an expressionist manner, much of the emotion and trauma of a selection, when people were picked for life or death, merely by the wave of a finger. Note the abstract formation of tracks and the sense of isolation. A photo in the center is taken from German photos from the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp.

Abraham, Sara and Auschwitz

Alice Lok Cahana
Abraham, Sara and Auschwitz, 1991 (detail) Oil on canvas, collage

A detail of Cahana's work shows a selection in process. Here a historical document, a photograph, is merged with the emotional process of painting to provide some feel for the terror of the moment of selection.

Alice Lok Cahana:CHGS Website: Artistic Responses

Page updated 2013.