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Autobiographical ink drawing of 6 refugees trekking through the snow at night

Object | Accession Number: 2010.447.2

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    Brief Narrative
    Pen and wash drawing from a series of captioned, narrative illustrations created by Peretz Chorshati (born Pavel Szenwald) between 1994 and 1997 about his wartime experiences. It depicts Pavel and 5 other men hiking through deep snow in November 1945, disguised as Greek refugees illegally crossing the Czechoslovakian border en route to a displaced persons camp. Pavel was an 18 year old student in Warsaw when the Germans invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. He was imprisoned in the Warsaw ghetto until his father got him forged papers and he escaped. He posed as a German national, and joined the German army. In March 1943, while serving as a guard, Pavel deserted the army and joined the Bielski partisan group. After the war ended on May 7, 1945, Pavel returned to Warsaw and joined Beitar, a right wing Zionist group. In June 1946, he illegally emigrated to British ruled Palestine.
    Artwork Title
    Olim from Poland, a snowy November 1945
    creation:  1994
    depiction:  1945 November
    creation: Israel
    depiction: border crossing; Czechoslovakia
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Peretz Chorshati
    front, center, black ink : Peretz Chorshati / 94
    Artist: Peretz Chorshati
    Subject: Peretz Chorshati
    Pavel Szenwald was born on December 28, 1920, in Warsaw, Poland. He was a student at the Technical College in Warsaw when the Germans invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. A few months later, he was imprisoned in the Warsaw ghetto and in March 1941 was transported to the Nedev labor camp; he escaped and returned to the ghetto. In 1942, Pavel used forged Polish papers obtained by his father and escaped the ghetto. He posed as a German national, joined the German army, and served as a guard at a prisoner of war camp for Soviet prisoners. Believing his identity was about to be revealed, he fled his post in March 1943 and traveled over 600 miles to the Lida ghetto in Poland (Belarus). He escaped in April to the forest in Belarus and joined the Bielski partisans as a machine gunner and saboteur. In December, the group established a permanent base in the Naliboki forest which was under the administration of a Soviet partisan group led by General Chernyshev. The Bielski group established a relationship with the Soviet partisans who provided them with weapons. In July 1944, the camp was liberated by the Soviet Army; Pavel and his battalion fought alongside the Soviets. After the war in Europe ended on May 7, 1945, Pavel was drafted into the Soviet Army.

    Pavel returned to Warsaw in August 1945. He stayed at an army barracks and searched the ghetto ruins for surviving relatives but found none. Not wanting to return to his Russian army unit, Pavel decided to go to Palestine. In October 1945, he joined Beitar, a right wing Zionist group which was involved in illegal immigration and military activities. He gave up his papers, uniform, and weapons in exchange for ragged clothing and forged papers declaring him a Greek refugee. In November 1945, he crossed the border into Czechoslovakia with other Poles. They stayed in a safe house in Prague and were forbidden to leave, but Pavel heard that he could get cakes in town and left. He stopped to ask directions and was arrested. His identity, and the fact he was a deserter from the Soviet army, was discovered. His Russian interrogator told Pavel, in Yiddish, to go to Palestine, and released him. In November, Pavel and the other displaced persons crossed the border into Germany. They arrived at a United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration refugee camp and in June 1946, the Jewish Brigade transported them to Marseilles, France. In Marseilles, Pavel was one of 1100 passengers to board the Biria as part of the illegal immigration to Palestine. The British ruled Palestine by mandate and restricted Jewish immigration during and after the Holocaust.

    The Biria was discovered by the British near Cyprus. To evade capture, the passengers were transferred to the Akbel, a Turkish coal boat, under the watch of an armed French ship, the Joan D’Arc, as British planes circled overhead. The Akbel almost sank, had no water or bathrooms, and many people were sea sick. The British intercepted the ship and rerouted it to Haifa, Palestine. The passengers were interred in the Atlit detention camp outside of Haifa. In July 1946, Pavel and another man escaped and hid by the side of the Haifa-Tel Aviv road. A passenger bus stopped and let them board without papers or money. Pavel made his way to Ramat-Gan and by winter was living in Givat Shmuel, where his daughter Shula was born. He patrolled the neighborhood at night and guarded the water tower.

    In the spring of 1947, Pavel joined the Irgun National Military Organization. In May 1948, he enlisted in the Israeli Defense Forces and fought in the War of Independence. The war ended on May 14, when Israel became an independent state. Pavel served in the army until 1961 and left with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He changed his name to Peretz Chorshati, settled in Eilat, established the Fire and Rescue Service, and served as station chief.

    Physical Details

    Physical Description
    Delicately detailed ink and wash drawing on white rectangular paper depicting 6 men wearing hats, boots, and back packs traveling through deep snow with 3 bare trees. Near the center of the paper a man sits against a tree; another walks towards him holding a walking stick. Three men are to the right; 1 uses a walking stick, 1 grasps a tree branch with 1 hand and the outstretched hand of a third man with the other. In the right background a man is seen from the waist up from the bask. The drawing is on the right half of the paper; on the left is the paragraph length artist’s caption in Hebrew, dates, and the artist’s name. There are 2 punched holes at the top center of the paper. On the reverse is a piece of aged adhesive tape.
    overall: Height: 7.875 inches (20.003 cm) | Width: 11.375 inches (28.893 cm)
    overall : paper, ink, pressure-sensitive tape, correction fluid, marker, graphite
    front, lower left, handwritten, black ink : Hebrew text [The Olim from Poland during a snowy night crossing between Czechoslovakia and Germany. In a Displaced Person’s camp in Prague as “Greek” refugees] / November 45
    front, lower left, pencil : 9 (painted over number 107)

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    No restrictions on access
    Conditions on Use
    No restrictions on use

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The autobiographical drawing was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2010 by Peretz Chorshati.
    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:
    2023-07-10 11:58:18
    This page:

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