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Portraits of the Prague Jewish Community 1940-41

David Friedmann produced hundreds of portraits after fleeing from Berlin to Prague at the end of December 1938. Among the 60 recovered photos and reproductions displayed in his album are portraits of the governing officials of the Palestine Office and Jewish Community of Prague such as: Jakob Edelstein, František Weidmann, Fredy Hirsch, Herbert Langer, Abraham Fixler, Rudolf Freiberger, Oskar Singer, and Hanna Steiner. Women and children were also portrayed. The leaders chose to aid their fellow Jews rather than flee to Palestine when the opportunity was still there.

Thirty-six postcard-sized portraits were found in the archive of Beit Theresienstadt, Givat Haim Ihud, Israel. This collection includes: Franz Kahn, Secretary General of the Czechoslovak Zionist Federation, Leo Janowitz, Josef Lichtenstern, Stefan Pollak, Elly Eisinger, and Otto Zucker. Here was confirmation that multiple reproductions of the original portrait were produced by the artist. The subjects exchanged their portraits among friends and colleagues. Several have handwritten dedications to Leo Kraus on the reverse side; however, he was not the donor. It is a mystery how the portraits arrived in Israel and who donated them to Beit Theresienstadt.

These portraits represent only a few faces of victims whose lives had been extinguished. They are historically significant evidence of a dynamic Jewish community that was destroyed.

David Friedmann wrote:
Between 1939 and 1941, I drew and painted almost everything in Prague, especially numerous portraits of prominent Jews and personalities, such as the president of all the Jewish Congregations in Czechoslovakia, Weidmann, the vice-president Jakob Edelstein, and many others. I also drew many portraits of officials from the Palestine Office. Some of these photo reproductions came into my possession once again in 1946. However, every artwork that was produced until 1938 in Germany, and later in Prague until 1941, was lost.

Portraits from the Album of David Friedmann

edelstein weidmann and langer

Jakob Edelstein, František Weidmann, Herbert Langer
Nearly all members of the Prague Jewish Community were murdered
by the German GESTAPO—because they knew too much!

 

Dr. Jakob Edelstein (1903-1944)

edelstein

Prominent Zionist and director of the Palestine Office, who became deputy chairman of the Jewish Community of Prague. Sent to Ghetto Theresienstadt, December 4, 1941, the Nazis appointed him "Elder of the Jews", the first chairman of the Judenrat (Jewish Council). Deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau Transport Dr, December 15, 1943, Edelstein and his family were shot to death June 20, 1944.


Dr. František Weidmann (1910-1944)

weidmann

Chairman of the Jewish Community of Prague. He was deported on Transport Ez, January 28, 1943 to Ghetto Theresienstadt with his family. They were sent on the last train East, Transport Ev to Auschwitz-Birkenau, October 28, 1944.

A pen and ink drawing on tracing paper (mounted on paper) was discovered in the collection of the Jewish Museum in Prague.


Herbert Langer (1914 -1944)

langer

Secretary Deputy of the Jewish Community.
Deported to Ghetto Theresienstadt with transport Dk on July 15, 1943 and was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau on the last Transport Ev, October 28, 1944.


Fredy Hirsch (1916 -1944)

hirsch

Zionist, teacher, charismatic leader of physical education for the youth movement. He was deported to Ghetto Theresienstadt on Transport St, December 4, 1941 and then to Auschwitz-Birkenau, Transport Dl, September 6, 1943. He devoted himself to caring for the Jewish children in Theresienstadt and Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. It has been testified that he committed suicide in Auschwitz, March 7,1944, however, the circumstances of his death remain controversial.


Friedrich Prossnitz (1896-1944)

prossnitz

Finance Director of the Jewish Community. Designated for "Special Treatment" because of his knowledge about the robbery of Jewish bank accounts by the German Reich. He was one of 18 deportees of Transport Eu promised to be sent to Ghetto Theresienstadt by a special wagon. They were kept overnight in Bohusovice, the nearest rail station to Theresienstadt, and the next day the wagon was added to the last train East, Transport Ev to Auschwitz-Birkenau. There were no survivors of Transport Eu; they were killed on their arrival in Birkenau on October 29.1944.


Dr. Oskar Singer (1893-1944)

singer

Writer, journalist, and chief director of the "Jüdisches Nachrichtenblatt" (Jewish newspaper), Deported from Prague to Lodz Ghetto, October 26,1941. Became the director of the Statistics Department and main editor of "The Chronicle of the Lodz Ghetto". Deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau in August 1944.


Dr. Hanna Steiner (1894-1944)

steiner

Dedicated Zionist leader and social worker. Director of the Emigration Department to Palestine. Deported from Prague to Ghetto Theresienstadt on Transport Di, July 13, 1943. Deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, Transport Er, October 16, 1944.

Two identical portraits survive of Hanna Steiner. One portrait is displayed in the album of David Friedmann; the other is in the archive of Beit Theresienstadt, Israel.


František Zelenka (1904-1944)

zelenka

Gifted stage designer, artist, and architect. Worked for the National Theater in Prague. He was deported on Transport Di to Ghetto Theresienstadt, July 13, 1943 and became involved in the preparation of 27 plays. Zelenka designed the sets and produced Brundibár, the children's opera performed 55 times. He was sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau on Transport Es, October 19, 1944.

Four identical portraits survive of František Zelenka. One portrait is displayed in the album of David Friedmann and three are in the theater department collection of the National Museum Prague, Czech Republic.

 

das kraft quartet

"Das Krafft Quartett" 1941 with original German text (PDF)

Exhibition

"The Last Portrait: Painting for Posterity"
Monday, January 23, 2012, Yad Vashem, Jerusalem,Israel.

The exhibition features pages from the "Album of David Friedmann" with portraits of the leading members of the Prague Jewish Community, 1940-1941. The artist's work chronicled people and events before, during and after the Holocaust and serves as a testimony to the enormous loss of lives, creative potential, talent and accomplishments. His album is a precious record representing lost and looted art as a consequence of the Holocaust.

David Friedman Collection
Copyright ©2004 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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