University of Minnesota
Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies


David Friedmann

"Because... They Were Jews!"

David Friedmann's successful career as an artist was shattered by the Holocaust. After liberation, he produced a legacy of artwork to commemorate the millions of Jews who perished, as well as to record mans' inhumanity to man. His burning desire was to show the world what persecution, torment, and agony was like as practiced by the Nazis, so that it would never happen again.

The first series of art was created in Prague, 1945-1948. The second series was created in St. Louis, 1963-1964, followed by a set of six etchings in 1967. He translated his haunting memories into over 100 individual works that depict the evolution of the Holocaust from deportation to the Lodz Ghetto and several concentration camps until liberation.

Seven of his first eight drawings illustrating the Lodz Ghetto and Camp Gleiwitz I surfaced in the collection of Yad Vashem Art Museum, Jerusalem. Three of them are displayed in the permanent exhibition of the Holocaust History Museum. Nineteen works were donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. The art posted on this webpage are in the collection of Miriam Friedman Morris, the daughter of the artist.

David Friedmann wrote the following entry in German in his diary on September 23, 1945, Prague:

"Apart from the consequences for the Jews, for my poor family, the evacuation to the Ghetto Litzmannstadt gave my eyes, my inner being a new direction. I saw something new, something that never happened before in this century. I experienced this tragedy not only with my eyes but buried it into my inner being, into my memory to tear out at a more peaceful time. These were powerful images that I saw - to give form to all that misery - to show it to the world - this was always my intent."

In 2007, Friedman's artwork was seen on the world stage of the United Nations during their observance of the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust.

Artwork & Descriptions by David Friedman, edited by Miriam Friedman Morris.

First Series 1945 - 1948

The Lodz Ghetto 1941-1944

On October 17, 1941 (10-16-41), my wife Mathilde, three-year old daughter Mirjam, and I were deported from Prague to the Lodz Ghetto. What I have painted and sketched here was only an attempt to portray what my eye saw: Lodz natives, people from Lodz on the water-pump, starving families, children who sold matches, cigarettes, saccharin, and homemade candy on the streets; Jews who were so weak that they no longer could get up from the street; a wagon filled with bricks pulled by ten starving, exhausted Jews guarded by a German soldier with a fixed bayonet!

I produced all of the artwork after the liberation. Rumkowski was chosen by the German administration as the "Judenälteste" (Eldest of the Jews). I was registered to work as an industrial designer in Metal I (Metall II) but only on paper. In the Ghetto, I could also paint and sketch in pencil and most importantly, produced portraits of the majority of the directors of about 40 factories, for which I received food or other things. The food one received with the ration cards were only hunger rations with 100 grams of horsemeat for one week.

awaiting deportation
Prague: Jews Awaiting Deportation to
Unknown Concentration Camp

1946. Oil on Masonite, 16" x 20".

After a great deal of nerve wracking incidents our last place of residence was District II, Dušní 10, from where we were hauled out of the apartment with some baggage, loaded onto a truck and transported to the Prague exhibition hall. Hundreds of people were lying on the floor and horrible things played out during the whole night and next day. The first Prague Transport to Ghetto Litzmannstadt (Lodz) was being prepared by the Gestapo.

ontheir way to a camp
On the Way to a Concentration Camp

1945. Charcoal, 8" x 11".

After some more ludicrous formalities, such as giving up your gold, etc., for the benefit of the Help Fund of the N.S.D.A.P. [the official name for the Nazi party]… children, adults, accompanied by soldiers with fixed bayonets, walked with all their baggage to the train, where one thousand Jews were pushed in like sardines. It is unnecessary to describe what went on in a completely sealed car for two days and two nights and this was just the beginning.  Windows were not permitted to be opened.

At last Radegast, a suburb of Lodz, and again we went on foot to the fenced-in Ghetto.

newcomers pulling a carriage
Newcomers pulling a carriage into Lodz Ghetto
1945. Charcoal, 8" x 11".
Newcomers in Lodz Ghetto pulling a carriage.  In the background there is a Catholic Church, but at that time it was used for storage of bed feathers taken by force from the Jews by the Nazis in that region.  The wood bridge went to another part of the Ghetto and the street under the bridge was only for Germans.  Watching soldiers were at every hundred feet.
lodz ghetto fence
Two Inmates of the Lodz Ghetto Walking by the German Fence

1947. Charcoal, 16 ½" x 22".
Many wanted to escape these disastrous circumstances and tried to flee, the Gestapo soon caught them.
jews as horsemen
Jews as Horsemen in the Ghetto

1946. Oil on canvas, 19 ½" x 26".
It is a sunny and very hot day, but the Jewish people in the Ghettos had to pull a carriage like horses filled with bricks or stones. A German soldier dressed in white escorts the Jews.

lodz ghetto
The Lodz Ghetto 1941 - 1944
Circa 1945. Charcoal, 9" x 13".

a littl ehappiness around the oven
A Little Happiness Around the Oven during a Sad
Time in Lodz Ghetto

1947 - 73. Oil on masonite, 16" x 20".

the lodz ghetto
The Lodz Ghetto, 1941 - 1944.
1946. Lithographic crayon, 10" x 11 ¼".

The Hunger was so Great (Der Hunger war so groß)

The hunger was so great that one searched in trashcans for whatever was edible, although this was prohibited. For 1 kilo of potato peels we paid a very high price. My wife and I each earned 22 RM per week (Ghetto Marks). Mirjam was cared for by the kindergarten, after five o'clock I picked her up. Whoever did not work received no ration cards, which meant death.  Prices increased enormously during the course of the three years that we had to spend in the Ghetto.  On the black market one had to pay 20 RM for 1 kilo of horsemeat, 1 RM for one tablet of saccharin.  Of course there were no eggs or butter for the 80,000 Ghetto inhabitants, only for the directors of the factories who assured the best food for themselves.  Every Friday, one had to go to the food distribution center and stand in a long line for many hours for the food rations. There would be fights because everyone wanted to be first.  The same was true when one received weighed wood or briquettes (pressed coal).  One of these times I fainted and fell down to the ground like a bag of potatoes.

children selling cigarettes
Children Selling Cigarettes and Self-made Candy in the Streets of Lodz Ghetto, 1941-1944

1948. Lithographic crayon, 9" x 11".

fleeing the ss rollkommando
By day or night, the notorious "SS Rollkommando" suddenly came to the Lodz Ghetto.

1947. Oil on canvas, 17" x 21".
People fled away, but were quickly surrounded and selected to go on the trucks to the unknown.

Concentration Camp Gleiwitz I

a beating
A Beating

1947. Oil on canvas, 19" x 24".
If some were lazy in work or came late for roll-call, if the blanket on his bed was not straight enough or a self-made wooden spoon was hidden under his jacket or something else, he was beaten 25 times or more with an ox-whip. Every day something would happen in Camp Gleiwitz I.

concentration camp prisoner
Liegender Haftling
Concentration Camp Prisoner
1945. Charcoal.

Last seen in Israel, the location of this drawing is unknown. The artist's daughter is searching for the original work. Any help finding the original is appreciated.
roll call in gleiwitz i
Roll-Call in Camp Gleiwitz I
1946. Tempera, 16" x 14".
Behind the wire fence which was charged with electricity.
gas chamber victims
Victims of the Gas Chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland
1945. Oil on canvas, 14" x 18".

It is unknown if any survivor painter actually saw a gassing like this, as the perspective is from inside the gas chamber labeled as "Brausebad" or shower. Nevertheless, Friedmann, in a desire to paint a visual memoir of the most horrible aspects of the Holocaust did paint this work, most probably from his own insights, rumor from other inmates, and by talking to others after the Holocaust who knew about such things. An artist who was in the last Sonderkommando who helped carry bodies and who did paint a similar scene is David Olere, who lived in Paris after the war.

-Comment by Prof. Stephen Feinstein

death march
Death March
1946. Oil on canvas, 14 ½" x 19".
In Camp Gleiwitz I, January 21, 1945, two o’clock in the morning, we were woken and ordered to go as fast as we could because the Russians were 60 miles away from us.  It took us 48 hours to reach the next camp “Blechhammer” in Upper Silesia, Germany, but the flight we took turned out to be a death march.  That meant anyone who fell of weakness, was shot down pitilessly.
death march
Death March from Camp Gleiwitz I to Camp Blechhammer
1947. Oil on canvas, 19 ½" x 26".
I was unable to walk and would never have reached the camp were it not for the French Doctor Orenstein and two other friends who helped me alternately. A few days later, we were liberated there by the Russians. Note:  Artist depicts himself as the prisoner with the glasses.

Note for the first series of art:  Some descriptions were translated and edited from the album of David Friedmann and his autobiography entitled „Kurzgefasste Beschreibung von Erlebnissen des Kunstmalers David Friedmann, verursacht durch nationalsozialistische Verfolgungsmassnahmen mit seiner Frau Mathilde, geb. Fuchs und Baby Mirjam” (Short Summary of Experiences of Artist-Painter David Friedmann, his wife Mathilde, nee Fuchs, and baby Mirjam due to the National Socialist Persecution Actions”).

Second Series 1963 - 1967

  Where to? Auschwitz, Treblinka, or Maidanek?
Where to? Auschwitz, Treblinka, or Maidanek?
Aussiedlung! Evacuation!

January 1964. Charcoal, 24" x 18".
Jewish people in a suburb of Prague leaving their homes, waiting on the streets for trucks for deportation. At that time, nobody knew about Ghettos or concentration camps, or where they will go.
January 1964. Charcoal. 24" x 18".
Everyone is agitated about deportation. A boy is asking his relative a question. German inscription: In Erwartung des Abtransportes nach eiem Ghetto oder Vernichtungslager.
submitting to his fate
Submitting To His Fate

1963. Charcoal, 24" x 18".
One Jew from Prague ready and prepared with all his property on his body is waiting for the coming truck for deportation. As you can see from his cap, he was a World War I soldier in the Austro-Hungarian Army. Note: David Friedmann served as a battle artist in the K.u.K. Austro-Hungarian Army in WW I.
few seconds before excecution
A Few Seconds before Execution

April 23, 1964. Charcoal, 24" x 18".
Thousands of Jews in Poland and Russia were hunted down because of the Nazi regimes' plan to make all towns and villages "Judenrein".
in the lodz ghetto
In the Lodz Ghetto

April 20, 1964. Charcoal, 24" x 18".
"You damned Jew," asked the Gestapo man, "where is all your money and jewelry?" "I gave up everything to others who came before you. Now I have nothing more," answered the Jew from Prague. I do not believe you, damned Jew," shouted the Gestapo man excitedly and beat the Jew with his ox-whip several times on his face and head.
excecution of jews in lodz ghetto
Execution of Jews in Lodz Ghetto

1963. Charcoal, 18" x 24".
In November 1941 at the Baluty market place in Lodz Ghetto, 18 Jews were executed by hanging in one day. This action was ordered by the German Ghetto Administrator Hans Biebow, because they tried to escape. I was eyewitness with my first wife and three-year old child. Note: the date for the public execution was September 7, 1942.
food in trash containers
In Lodz Ghetto, Poland, Some Found Food In Trash Containers

1967. Original Etching printed by the artist, 5" x 7".
People are looking for food in backyards, but if you were caught, you were shot. I was able to observe with my binoculars taken with me from Prague. For a one-half pound of potato peelings, I had to pay $1.00 in fresh condition.

cattle train to auschwitz
Cattle Train to Auschwitz

December 1963. Charcoal, 18" x 24".

This cattle train will go to Aushchwitz-Birkenau for the annihilation of all the people seen in this drawing. We were pushed and pressed like sardines and the conditions inside were terrible; we could hardly breathe. Three days without food too. I will never forget this trip. It was like a hell and this was only the beginning. German inscription: Im "VIEHWAGEN" nach dem Vernichtunglager AUSCHWITZ."
feeding time in auschwitz
Feeding Time in Auschwitz

January 1964. Charcoal, 24" x 18".
One plate of cabbage soup that was like hot water, had to be enough for two or three men. After that, the Nazis pushed the prisoners with sticks and revolvers into the bathhouse. Sometimes they used nice words and told jokes to make it easier to go. But once those prisoners were in, they were pushed to the right side, where the gas chamber was located. What kind of hell is going on?
roll call in gleiwitz i
Roll-Call in Camp Gleiwitz I

1963. Charcoal, 24" x 18".
At six o'clock in the morning, everyone had to be in line and call his name. The block doctor would state the names of his sick prisoners. If anyone came late, they were beaten with an ox whip at least 25 times or had to walk on their knees for 50 yards in the snow. If anyone fell, they were also beaten. After roll-call, the punished prisoners were transported to the barrack-hospital and were never seen again.

November, 1963. Charcoal, 24" x 18".
With a smiling SS Obersturmbannführer behind them, four selected prisoners are ready to go to the gas chamber in Auschwitz-Birkenau. This was an every day occurrence. Sometimes the SS Obersturmbannführer would suddenly select 30 prisoners, whether healthy workers or not, and they would never be seen again. The next day, new prisoners from Prague or the Lodz Ghetto would arrive.

Burying a Comrade

Burying a Comrade
January 1964. Charcoal, 18" x 24".

Jewish prisoners on the way to bury a shot down comrade. A smiling and smoking Nazi is watching. Two other prisoners are digging a grave. Usually, the prisoners dug their own graves before they were shot. This was an added enjoyment for the Nazis.
prisoners carrying bricks
Prisoners Carrying Bricks

March 1964. Charcoal, 24" x 18".
Every Sunday morning we had to carry 25 pounds of bricks for three miles. The Nazis enjoyed watching our tortures while we had nothing in our stomachs. If any of us fell down they beat us with the ends of their rifles until we would get up and finish our work. Note: The artist depicts himself as the prisoner with the glasses. Related link (PDF).
the artist is beaten
The Artist is Beaten
January 4, 1964. Charcoal, 24" x 18".
A drunken beast of a "Kapo" saw me coming from the bathroom.  Although I told him that I had permission, he beat me several times in my face.  Because I was under the protection of SS Obersturmbannführer Moll at that time, he was sent to another camp the same day. Note:  Otto Moll was ranked SS Hauptsturmführer.
because they were jews Because They Were Jews
March 1964. Charcoal, 18" x 24".
Sometimes just for fun, the Nazis would shoot down the Jewish mothers first and then their children.  There was no end to the bestialities of the Nazis.  One of the most important men of the Christian world had knowledge of everything that was going on, but he was silent!

1964. Charcoal, 18" x 24".
About January 25, 1945, near the camp of Blechhammer in Upper Silesia, gunfire could be heard and we noticed that the Nazis were running away. But before leaving they destroyed some barracks that stored food and all water supplies.  They also fired machine guns and threw hand grenades into our barracks.  This caused many deaths and wounded.  We had to use snow to quell our thirst.  We could not believe that we were really free again.  In this drawing, I tried to express this moment.  Note: Artist depicts himself as the prisoner with the glasses.

For more artwork from the series, "Because They Were Jews!" search the catalogue of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

The 2008 USHMM Calendar, "Art as Witness," includes a painting by David Friedmann depicting the Lodz Ghetto.

David Friedmann, Maler und Grafiker

Site constructed with permission of Miriam Friedman Morris

Because They Were Jews!
Copyright © 1989 Miriam Friedman Morris
All Rights Reserved

Note: No one other than Miriam Friedman Morris may represent, edit or publish the art or material.

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