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Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies
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Israel Bernbaum

Memories of Warsaw Series

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The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising-Heroism
and Resistance. Oil on Canvas,
62" x 144" (1982)
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Detail center Armed fighters
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*(1)

*(1)Detail upper left: Partisans, hidden Jews in the attic, Polish children playing on the “Aryan” side, Menorah on right symbolizing beginning of the ghetto wall.

The Jewish Mother in the Ghetto

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The Jewish Mother in the Ghetto Oil on Canvas, 48" x 70" (1980)
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Detail lower left showing hidden Jews as resistance fighters, those still attempting to maintain Jewish religious prayer and moving through sewers
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Detail upper left: Poles on the Aryan side looking into the ghetto, one with binoculars. Jews in the foreground are hidden, whiles other flee in the streets near the wall.
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Detail upper right. Nazis, the wall, children on the Aryan side.
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Detail center: Children victims under the gun

On Both Sides of the Warsaw Ghetto Wall

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On Both Sides of the Warsaw Ghetto Wall Oil on Canvas 40 inches x 60m inches (1973)
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Notables on the Aryan side of the wall (upper left)
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Clown, priests and people mocking events center left)

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Jews escaping burning ghetto building (center right)

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Jews escaping burning ghetto building (center right detail 2)
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Religious Jews and other victims (center)500

The Jewish Children in Ghettos and Death Camps

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The Jewish Children in Ghettos and Death Camps Oil on Canvas 70 x 82 inches (1981). *(1)
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Detail upper right with references to Nazi eugenics and medical experiments, concentration camp, Birkenau barracks and barbed wire.
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Concentration camp inmates. Detail upper right.
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Children with hands raised. The boy is derived from a photo in The Stroop Report.
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Detail of upper center, trains arriving in Auschwitz Birkenau
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Detail of upper center, saluting arms amidst flames
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Deail lower left: hidden Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto
 

*(1)Bernbaum shows the persecution of Jewish children in many ways, bordered wit Hitler salutes on left, right and center, an Eagle with Swastika surrounded by flames, deportation cars, hidden Jews on bottom left, beggers in center and a concentration camp in center right, with some images reflective of The Auschwitz Album documenting the arrival of Hungarian Jews in 1944. The two children in the center with hands in the air are derived from The Stroop Report on the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto.

The Warsaw Ghetto Streets

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The Warsaw Ghetto Streets 1943 Oil on Canvas, 60 inches x 90 inches (1979)
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Detail of center with shattered Warsaw street names
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Detail of bottom left with resistance fighter and Zionist flag, partisans hiding below, broken streets names and books on the right.
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Detail of figure holding torah, Menorah in front, torah and books in flames
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Detail of the same area.
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Detail upper right. Broken streets of Warsaw, Menorah and ghetto wall

Memories if Warsaw Series

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Jewish Wedding
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Sellers in the Courtyard
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Building a Sukah
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Shabat Dinner in the Sukah
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A Jewish Funeral in Warsaw
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An Anti-Semitic Incident
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The Yiddish Press in Warsaw
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The Balfour Declaration Celebrated
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An Election Campaign
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A Feindele, The Red Flag
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A Yiddish Theatre
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The Jewish Children in our Courtyard
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Kol Nidre (Prayer for Yom Kippur) in my Father's Shul
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Simchat Torah
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The Blind Street Singers
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The Business Street

Sculptures

Janusz Korczak Series

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Deportation of the Children’s Orphanage from Warsaw Ghetto to Treblinka
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Detail of Children in Deportation wagon
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Umschlagplatz during deportation of Orphanages
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Korczak Attending a Sick Child

Our Brother's Keeper Series

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We will be our Brother's Keeper! (Variation 1)
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We will be our Brother's Keeper (Variation 2)
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Zachor! (Remember!)
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Never Again!

(b. 1920? Warsaw. Died 1993, New York)

Professor Stephen Feinstein made the acquaintance of Holocaust survivor and painter Israel Bernbaum in November 1992 after finding his work analyzed in Vivian Alpert Thompson’s monograph, A Mission in Art: Recent Holocaust Works in America (1988). Feinstein interviewed Bernbaum in his Queens apartment which was also his studio at the end of 1992. Unfortunately he passed away suddenly early in 1993.

Bernbaum was a Jew born in Warsaw who escaped Warsaw before the ghetto was completed. He survived the war living in the Soviet Union, coming to the United States in 1957 after being repatriated to Poland from the USSR as a Polish national. While working as a dental technician, Bernbaum studied art at Queens College, graduating with a B.A. in 1973. This was the period when he produced his first large works dealing with the Holocaust experiences. In particular, Bernbaum aimed his images at young people in the hope that simplicity of image, color, and almost a cartoon-like form would help tell the story of Jewish suffering. Familiar images appear in his works such as portraits of Anne Frank, the child from the Stroop Report photos of the Warsaw Ghetto, and especially images of destruction with street names in the field of debris around Warsaw. Other images deal with the deportation of the children of the Warsaw Ghetto to Treblinka and the heroism of Janusz Korczak. All of these paintings are large. Sizes and dates are indicated in the attached file (PDF).

In 1985, Bernbaum published My Brother’s Keeper-The Holocaust Through the Eyes of an Artist (Putnam). It contains many of the artist’s paintings, was translated into German and won the 1990 German Prize for Children’s Literature with the title Meines Bruders Huter.

Bernbaum’s works are recommended for ages 6-12. The artist specifically indicated that his aim was to produce works so that children might understand the Holocaust. Hence his use of some images which are familiar. His work raises the question of what form art about the Holocaust should take? Should it be literal and deal with known images, or can it move into abstraction, as was the case with the Jewish abstract expressionist painters after 1945, Barnett Newman and Mark Rothko being strong examples of a retreat into abstraction.

Until his sudden death, Bernbaum was active in causes related to the Holocaust, especially the March of the Living in 1992 (PDF).

Included on this web site are color photos and a text of a book Bernbaum wanted to publish but never did. It is entitled My Jewish Warsaw As I Remember It. These are all watercolors (11 x 14 inches) with descriptive texts. They are reproduced here in black and white:

Bernbaum’s works are dealt with in the following web sites and sources:

Bibliography:
Israel Bernbaum, My Brother’s Keeper: The Holocaust Through the Eyes of an Artist (New York, G. P. Putnam;s Sons, 1985).
Vivian Alpert Thompson, A Mission in Art: Recent Holocaust Works in America (Macon, Ga. Mercer University Press, 1988)

All photographs shown here were taken in 1992 in Mr. Bernbaum’s apartment with his permission using Kodak Ektachrome 160T film and a 600 watt tungsten photographic lamp.

Letter from Israel Bernbaum to Dr. Feinstein