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Autobiographical charcoal drawing by David Friedman of concentration camp inmates who preferred the electric wire rather than more tortures

Object | Accession Number: 1998.80.1

Charcoal drawing created by David Friedman (before 1960, Friedmann) in 1964, depicting a scene in Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, where he was sent in late-August 1944. It depicts prisoners throwing themselves against barbed wire electric fences. Artists's caption: " Some prisoners preferred the electric wire rather than more tortures. They work hard for little food, lost the ability to think and lost also their nerves. Food was even not good enough for pigs."
David Friedmann was a successful painter and graphic artist who lived in Berlin from 1911-1938. He was renowned for his portraits drawn from life and became a leading press artist of the 1920’s. In 1933, his prewar career abruptly ended with the establishment of the Nazi dictatorship. In December 1938, he escaped to Prague with his wife, Mathilde, and infant daughter, Mirjam Helene. In October 1941, they were deported to the Jewish Ghetto in Łódź, Poland. In late August 1944, the family was separated and sent to Auschwitz death camp, where his wife and child were murdered. He was sent to the subcamp Gleiwitz I, because musicians were sought for a camp orchestra, but Friedmann’s life was saved because of his painting and quick-sketching portrait abilities. The camp was evacuated due to approaching Soviet forces. The inmates were forced on a death march to Blechhammer, where Friedmann was liberated by the Red Army in January 1945. He journeyed to Poland and stayed in Krakow until the war ended in early May 1945. He then returned to Prague and painted the scenes that haunted his memory to show the world and give voice to those who could not be heard. In January 1946, he had his first exhibition of his Holocaust artwork. Friedmann and his second wife, Hildegard, a fellow concentration camp survivor, fled the Stalinist Communists for Israel in 1949. They had a daughter also named Miriam, and the family moved to the United States in 1954.

Artwork Title
Electrocution by Choice
Series Title
Because They Were Jews!
creation:  1964 January 23
depiction:  1944 August-1945 January
depiction: concentration camps; Germany
Credit Line
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Miriam Friedman Morris, In Memory of David and Hildegard Friedman
Record last modified: 2021-02-10 09:48:52
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