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Woodcut portrait of Leo Baeck owned by a Jewish Polish girl

Object | Accession Number: 2014.481.2

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    Woodcut portrait of Leo Baeck owned by a Jewish Polish girl

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    Brief Narrative
    Woodcut portrait of Leo Baeck, owned by Julie Keefer, a Jewish Polish girl who was in hiding during the Holocaust with her grandfather. Baeck was a Rabbi and intellectual theologian who emerged as an important symbolic and political leader of German Jewry before and during World War II. Baeck helped other Jews emigrate from Germany and fought for Jewish rights. In 1943 he was deported to Theresienstadt (Terezin) ghetto labor camp, where he gave lectures on philosophy and religion and became a leader among the camp’s Jews. In June 1941, when Julie was two months old, her hometown, Lvov, Poland (now Lviv, Ukraine) was occupied by German troops. In July several thousand Jews were massacred in pogroms. In November, Julie and her family were forced into Lvov ghetto and her grandfather, Aizik was taken to Jaktorow labor camp. In late 1943, Aizik rescued Julie and her family from the ghetto and they hid in a forest bunker. He decided Julie and her 5 month old sister Tola had to hide elsewhere as their crying made it dangerous for the others. In December he arranged for himself Tola and Julie to live with Lucia Nowicka who worked for a Catholic family. Aizik impersonated her husband and the two girls were introduced as nieces. When Lucia was briefly arrested, Aizik hid Tola in a Catholic children's home. During bombing in late spring 1944, the home was evacuated and he and Julie never saw Tola again. The bunker was discovered by the Germans and everyone was murdered. Lvov was liberated in June 1944 and the war ended in May 1945. Aizik, Julie, and Lucia lived in displaced persons camps. Aizik was able to get a US entry visa for Julie, and in 1948 Julie was sent to America where she lived in orphanages. Aizik and Lucia married and immigrated to the US in 1950. In 1955 Julie was adopted by Fred and Thea Klestadt, Jewish immigrants who had arrived from Dusseldorf, Germany, in 1937
    Artwork Title
    Leo Baeck
    creation:  1955
    creation: London (England)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Julie Keefer
    lower left corner, printed : (Hebrew text) Bacon [Yehuda Bacon]
    Subject: Julie Keefer
    Subject: Leo Baeck
    Artist: Yehuda Bacon
    Jula Weinstock (later Julie Keefer) was born on April 19, 1941, in Lvov (Lwow), Poland (now L'viv, Ukraine) to Chaim (Herman) Hersh and Sala Rosenberg Weinstock. Her father was a tinsmith. Her mother was an opera singer, as well as a homemaker. Her maternal grandfather Aizik Eisen, who ran a wholesale fruit business, and other family members also lived in Lvov. At the time of Jula’s birth, the city was under the control of the Soviet Union which had invaded Poland in September 1939, a few weeks after Germany. Under the terms of the German-Soviet pact, Lvov became Soviet territory. In late June 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union, inciting pogroms by the local Ukrainian nationalists. Nearly 4000 Jews were massacred in early July, and another 2000 were murdered near the end of the month. In September, Jula and her family, and the other Jewish residents, were forcibly relocated to a ghetto closed in by a wooden fence. Aizik’s house was located in the area of the ghetto and Jula and her family moved into a barn behind it.

    In November 1941, Aizik was picked up during an action and taken to Jaktorow labor camp where he was beaten regularly and forced to work in a limestone quarry. He eventually escaped, but in May 1942 was rearrested and sent to Janowska slave labor camp where he was forced to work hauling heavy stones. In November, Aizik escaped the camp and made his way to a village where a man gave him clothes, food, a shovel and told him it was safest in Borszczowice forest. Jula’s younger sister Tola was born in the spring of 1943. One day in June 1943, Aizik appeared at their home to help Jula and her family escape the ghetto. A man name Mr. Borecki had told Aizik that the ghetto was to be burned and he determined to save his family. He took them to the forest where he had built a bunker with about thirty other Jewish escapees.

    Soon after they arrived, Aizik decided that Jula and her sister Tola had to be placed in hiding elsewhere because their crying was endangering the others. In December 1943, he arranged for Jula and Tola to live in Lvov with a former neighbor and family friend, Lucia Nowicka. Her husband had disappeared in 1939 and she lived with and worked for a Catholic family, the Swierczynski’s, whose home was next to that of the German governor of Lvov District. Aizik assumed the identity of Lucia’s husband, and Jula and Tola were introduced as Lucia’s nieces. Aizik continued to spend time with the group in the forest. One day he returned to Lvov to find that the Gestapo had arrested Lucia. Aizik found a hiding place for Tola in a Catholic children’s home under the name Antonina Nowicka. The Swierczynski family was able to get Lucia released. In April 1944, while Aizik was visiting the girls in Lvov, the Germans discovered the forest bunker and killed everyone inside. Around this time, Soviet troops were advancing on the region and Lvov was under frequent bombardment. After one explosion, the Germans evacuated the children’s home where Tola was hidden. Aizik and Jula were never able to locate Tola after that move.

    In June 1944, the Red Army liberated the region. The war ended when Germany surrendered on May 7, 1945. Aizik, Lucia, and Jula lived in displaced persons camps in Poland and Austria, including Wegscheid Displaced Persons Camp (Camp Taylor) in Linz, Austria. Aizik heard that young orphans received preferential treatment for US entry visas. He decided to send Jula to America, and in 1948, Jula, then 7, left alone for the United States. Aizik hoped to join her there. Jula, now called Julie, was placed in a series of orphanages. She endured taunting due to her German accent and was sometimes called a Nazi. She was sent by The Joint Distribution Committee to the Bellefaire Jewish Children's Orphanage in Cleveland, OH. After seven years in the US, Julie was adopted by Fred and Thea Klestadt, Jewish immigrants who had arrived from Dusseldorf, Germany, in 1937. Aizik and Lucia married and in March 1950 arrived in the US, and settled in New Jersey. Julie attended Oberlin College, and became a French teacher. She also earned degrees in psychology, special education, and administration. Julie and her husband Larry have two children and live in Washington DC.
    Leo Baeck was born on May 23 1873 in Lissa, Germany (now Leszno Poland), to Samuel Baeck and Eva Placzek Baeck. His father was a Rabbi and Leo was raised in a traditional home, observing dietary laws and studying the Talmud daily. Leo had 4 sisters. He attended Jewish Theological Seminary in Breslau and served as a rabbi, and a scholar on the Jewish faith. In 1899 he married Natalie Hamburger. They had a daughter, Ruth on August 22 1900. In 1912 Baeck went to Berlin where he worked as a Rabbi and lectured at the Hochschule für die Wissenschaft des Judentums. During World War I he served as a Champlain in the German army. After the war Baeck would become a prominent leader in the German Jewish community. He returned to Berlin and became President of the Union of German Rabbis and he was elected President of the German B’nai B’rith Order in 1924.

    After Hitler seized power of the German Government in 1933, laws were passed that restricted Jewish life. In 1933 Leo Baeck was elected president of the Reichsvertretung der deutschen Juden, an organization of Jewish groups whose goal was to advance the interests of German Jewry in the face of Nazi oppression. In September 1935, the Nazis announced the Nuremberg Laws which excluded Jews from citizenship and prohibited them from marrying or having sexual relations with persons of German blood. The laws defined a Jew as a person who had 3 or more grandparents that were Jews, regardless of their religious practice. With the increasing German antisemitism, Baeck received many offers of emigration, but he refused to leave his community, even after Jewish businesses and synagogues were burned and looted in November 1938. Baeck remained president of the Reichsvertretung der deutschen Juden until 1943 when it was placed under the state’s control and renamed Reichsvereinigung der Juden in Deutschland and then disbanded later in the year.

    Baeck was sent to Theresienstadt (Terezin) ghetto labor camp in occupied Czechoslovakia. There he gave lectures on philosophy and religion and became a leader of the camp’s Jews. The camp was liberated in May 1945. All 4 of Baeck’s sisters were murdered at Theresienstadt. Germany surrendered May 7, 1945 and Baeck went to England where his daughter Ruth lived. Leo Baeck, age 83, died on November 2, 1956 in London.
    Yehuda Bacon was born on July 28, 1929, in Moravska Ostrava, Czechoslovakia to Israel and Ethel Bacon. Israel owned a leather factory and Ethel was a housewife. His family were Hassidic Jews and Yehuda had two older sisters, Hanna (1924-?) and Bella. In September 1938 Germany annexed the Sudetenland and on March 15, 1939 Germany annexed the provinces of Bohemia and Moravia. On September 1, Germany invaded Poland and on September 3, Britain and France declared war on Germany. On September 26, 1942, at age 13 Yehuda and his family were transported to Theresienstadt ghetto-labor camp where he stayed at the Jugendheim (children’s home). While in Terezin he was able to study with artists Otto Ungar, Bedřich Frita, Leo Haas, and Karl Fleischmann. The artists were imprisoned together in the Zeichenstube (technical-graphic department) which created artwork, maps, charts, and other materials for German SS camp administrators. On December 15, 1943 Yehuda and his father were transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in occupied Poland. For 6 months Yehuda stayed in the “Family Camp” where he worked with other boys transporting wood and other materials, or bodies of the dead, from place to place. In July 1943 Yehuda’s father was murdered in the gas chamber at Birkenau. In January 1945, Auschwitz was evacuated in advance of the Soviet arrival and Yehuda was sent on a 30 day forced march to Gunskirchen. Yehuda was liberated by Americans at Gunskirchen camp on May 5, 1945. Yehuda’ sister, Hanna and mother Ethel are presumed to have died in the Holocaust. In 1946, Yehuda immigrated to Palestine. He studied art at the Bezalel Academy in Jerusalem, the Central school of art in London and the Ecole des Beaux in Paris. Yehuda went on to teach at the Bezalel Academy for 35 years and worked as a freelance artist. He testified at the Eichmann Trial, and at the Auschwitz Trial in Frankfurt Germany.

    Physical Details

    Object Type
    Wood-engraving (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    Black and white woodcut portrait in ink on faded heavyweight paper of an older, bald man in slight right profile. His face is heavily lined and wrinkled with dark circles around his eyes. He is wearing a white collared shirt and circular framed glasses. The details of his face are created through the contrasting use of the white paper showing in between the short black lines of varying thickness and darkness. The background is black and the artist’s name is in white in the lower left. The portrait is centered on the paper with a wide border on each side.
    overall: Height: 9.000 inches (22.86 cm) | Width: 6.625 inches (16.827 cm)
    overall : paper, ink

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    No restrictions on access

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The portrait was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2014 by Julie Keefer, the daughter of Fred and Thea Löwenstein Klestadt.
    Funding Note
    The cataloging of this artifact has been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
    Record last modified:
    2022-07-28 21:51:14
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