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Cover for a set of etchings by Walter Spitzer inscribed by the artist

Object | Accession Number: 1991.138.10

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    Overview

    Brief Narrative
    Cover to a set of etchings created by Walter Spitzer in 1955 based upon his experiences as an inmate in multiple concentration camps during the Holocaust. Following the German invasion of Poland in September 1939, Walter fled with his family from Cieszyn (Województwo Śląskie). In 1940, his brother, Harry, was taken away by German soldiers and his father died after surgery. In June 1943, he and his mother, Gretta, were deported to Blechhammer labor camp where they were separated. Walter was sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau and tattooed with the number 78489. The 17 year-old Spitzer began documenting camp life in Buchenwald where he promised a fellow inmate to tell with his pencils all that he saw in the camps. Walter's family did not survive the war and he settled in France. He became a professional artist, creating an eloquent artistic record of the Shoah.
    Date
    creation:  1955
    depiction:  1943 June-1945 April
    Geography
    depiction: Buchenwald (Concentration camp); Weimar (Thuringia, Germany)
    creation: Paris (France)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Ani Mander
    Contributor
    Artist: Walter Spitzer
    Subject: Walter Spitzer
    Biography
    Walter Spitzer was born on June 14, 1927, in the Czech-Polish border town of Cieszyn (Województwo Śląskie), Poland, to Grete Weiss and Samuel Spitzer. He had a brother, Harry. It was a pleasant, upper middle class existence and Walter’s artistic talent was noticed early. On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland. In 1940, his brother was taken away by German soldiers. Shortly after, his father died from complications after surgery. Soon after, all the Jews of Cieszyn were banished from their homes. Walter, age 13, and his mother sought refuge in Strzemieszyce, near Sosnowiec and Bedzin in southwest Poland. Conditions were believed to be better there; the ghetto was open and the Jewish Council was extremely organized. Walter was able to support them by working as a photographer and as a welder at the Eisenwerke (Steel Factory). But in June 1943, the Jews were expelled from Strzemieszyce and transported to Blechhammer labor camp. Walter was separated from his mother and sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where he was tattooed with the number, 178489. In January 1945, Walter was forced on a death march to Gross-Rosen, from where he was taken to Buchenwald by train and assigned the number, 124465. In his autobiography, Spitzer relates a promise that he made to the German political prisoner in charge of his barracks. This man told Spitzer that he would keep him off the next transport lists, if he promised to tell with his pencils all that he saw in the camps. While at Buchenwald, Walter made portraits and drawings which he bartered for bread. He also did clandestine drawings of forced labor. Most of his camp drawings were lost when the camp was liquidated. The inmates were forced on a death march to Sylésie in February, then to Gera, a Buchenwald subcamp. While on the forced march to Gera, in April 1945, Spitzer was liberated by the United States Army. In May, he was transported to Austria, where he was taken in by the 3256 Signal Service Company of the United States Armed Forces and worked as an interpreter.

    On June 20, 1945, Spitzer departed for Paris. He received formal training at the Ecole des Beaux Arts and became a renowned painter, lithographer, and illustrator in Paris. Among his most celebrated works are a cycle of lithographs to accompany the fiction of Jean Paul Sartre, including his trilogy about the war years, as well as artwork for several novels by Andre Malraux. Through his art, Spitzer has been a compelling and eloquent witness to the Shoah and other horrors of the 20th century. He published his autobiography, Sauvé par le dessin: Buchenwald, [Saved by Drawing, Buchenwald], forward by Elie Wiesel, in 2004.

    Physical Details

    Language
    French
    Classification
    Containers
    Category
    Cases
    Physical Description
    Paper cover for etchings with a pencilled inscription.
    Dimensions
    overall: Height: 19.750 inches (50.165 cm) | Width: 13.000 inches (33.02 cm)
    Materials
    overall : paper, charcoal, graphite
    Inscription
    front, inside cover, pencil : Pour toi Jean - quelques souvenirs que j'ai grave a la memoire de mes compagnons de Blechhammer, Gross Rosen, et Buchenwald. Walter, Paris le 28 Mars 1963. [For you Jean - some memories that I engraved in the memory of my friends from Bleckhammer, Gros Rozen, and Buchenwald. Walter, Paris March 28, 1968.]

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    No restrictions on access
    Conditions on Use
    Restrictions on use. Donor retains copyright for this collection.

    Keywords & Subjects

    Personal Name
    Spitzer, W. (Walter)

    Administrative Notes

    Provenance
    The cover was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1991 by Ani Mander.
    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 18:21:33
    This page:
    https:​/​/collections.ushmm.org​/search​/catalog​/irn4385

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