The stories of those who were betrayed by their fellow man, cornered by corrupt institutions and executed without cause nor crime in the name of "justice". These are our stories.

January 15, 2009

Keep this safe, it is my whole life.

Self Portrait of Charlotte Salomon at 23.In 1943, Charlotte Salomon went to the gas chamber in Auschwitz at the age of 26. She left behind a series of nearly 800 paintings known as "Leben? oder Theater?" (Life? Or Theater?) in the care of a family friend. She reportedly said, "Keep this safe, it is my whole life."

Her short life was characterized by the deaths of her mother and her grandmother by suicide and living in the shadow of the Third Reich. Her mother took her own life when Charlotte was nine. As a teenager, Charlotte studied painting at the Berlin Art Academy until Nazi policies ejected her due to "racial grounds" in 1938.

Charlotte fled to Nice in the South of France to live with her grandparents. After her grandmother's suicide on 1939, she and her grandfather were sent to Gurs, a political concentration camp in the French Pyrenees. They were released in 1941 due to her grandfather's declining health.

Over the next two years, beginning in 1941, Charlotte frantically painted 1,325 notebook-sized gouaches and chose 769 for the basis of a operetta called Life or Theater? depicting the trials and tragedies of her life.

Charlotte Salomon
One of 1300 paintings that Charlotte Salomon painted before her murder in Nazi ovens.

Charlotte's life would take a final bad turn as the French occupational government known as the Vichys hunted and gathered suspected Jews - shipping them to Nazi death camps.

Charlotte Salomon died five months pregnant with her new husband, Alexander Nagler, in Auschwitz in 1943. But thanks to the efforts of modern historians her work and life are not forgotten by generations to come.

References:
Wikipedia, Charlotte Salomon
Jewish Historical Muesuem of Amsterdam, Charlotte Salomon
Remember.org, Remember:The Holocaust Library
Jewish Theatre, Charlotte Salomon's Life? or Theater?
Jewish Theatre, To Paint her Life: Charlotte Salomon in the Nazi Era