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Etching of a sad young boy in an internment camp created postwar by a Swiss Aid nurse/rescuer

Object | Accession Number: 2006.464.2

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    Overview

    Brief Narrative
    Sepia ink etched print of a melancholy young boy created by Friedel Bohny-Reiter circa 1989. It is based upon memories of the Rivesaltes internment camp in France where she worked from 1941-1942 as a nurse for Secours Suisse aux Enfants [Swiss Aid to Children]. She gave the drawing to Margot Schwarzschild Wicki who as a 10 year old child was interned in the camp. In 1940, Margot, her parents, Richard and Luisi, and Hannelore, 11, were deported to Gurs prison camp from Kaiserlautern, Germany. They were transferred to Rivesaltes and, in 1942, placed on a list of Jews to be deported to concentration camps in Poland. Friedel helped get them released. Luisi had saved a photo of her Catholic communion and she used it to prove that she was not Jewish. Men and women were housed apart and Richard was deported on September 4 to Auschwitz and killed. Later that month, Friedel had Margot and her sister placed in a children’s home in Pringy and found a job for Luisi in another Secours Suisse home. After the war ended in May 1945, Luisi and her daughters moved to Switzerland. Friedel and her husband, Alfred Bohny, were honored as Righteous among Nations by Yad Vashem for their work in rescuing hundreds of mostly Jewish children from deportation to concentration camps.
    Artwork Title
    Despair
    Date
    depiction:  1942
    creation:  before 1989
    Geography
    depiction: Rivesaltes (Concentration camp); Rivesaltes (France)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Margot Schwarzschild Wicki
    Contributor
    Artist: Friedel Bohny-Reiter
    Subject: Friedel Bohny-Reiter
    Subject: Margot S. Wicki
    Biography
    Friedel Reiter was born in 1912 in Vienna, Austria. Her father died in the First World War (1914-1918) and her mother was unable to care for her. As a result, she was sent to Switzerland by a Red Cross children's transport and placed in the care of a Swiss family. Friedel received training as a pediatric nurse in Zurich. War spread across Europe in 1939, and in 1941, she joined the Secours Suisse aux Enfants (Swiss Aid to Children), an organization affiliated with the Red Cross that was founded to care for children displaced during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). On November 12, 1941, Friedel was sent to the Rivesaltes internment camp in the unoccupied zone of France, which was governed by the collaborationist Vichy regime. The Vichy government had enacted anti-Jewish legislation, including the appropriation of Jewish-owned property. Refugees from German occupied countries had flooded France and French authorities interned thousands of Jews under deplorable conditions in French-administered detention camps such as Rivesaltes. Friedel lived in the camp barracks and suffered the same harsh conditions as the inmates, except that she had enough food to eat. Resources were extremely limited, but she did her best to provide medical care, clothing, and food for the interned refugee children, at first chiefly Jewish, Romani, and Spanish children. By the spring of 1942, the round-up and deportation of Jews to killing centers was frequent in both German-occupied and Vichy ruled France. Rivesaltes became a central transit point. The situation in the camp was rapidly deteriorating and Friedel realized the necessity of removing as many of the children as possible before they were deported. She and other rescuers were secretly aided by the commander of the camp who left lists of inmates who were to be deported on his desk in plain view. Nearly 600 children would be removed from Rivesaltes; most escaped deportation. It was during her search to find institutions in France to shelter the children that she met her future husband, August Bohny. He had established an orphanage for Secours Suisse near Lyon, Chateau Montiuel, and they met in 1942 when Friedel brought a group of children there. When he returned to the Chambon orphanage a short time later, Friedel continued to send groups of children to him. Rivesaltes was closed in November 1942, after deporting most of the Jewish internees to Auschwitz. In January 1943, Friedel was sent to Le Chambon-sur-Lignon to work as a director of an orphanage with August Bohny, and they lived there until the end of 1944. In 1990, both were recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations. Friedel recorded her experiences at Rivesaltes in a wartime diary that was published in 1993. She passed away, age 89, in 2001.
    Margot Schwarzschild was born on November 20, 1931, in Kaiserslautern, Germany, to a Jewish father, Richard, born on December 12, 1898, in Kaiserslautern, and a Catholic mother, Aloisia (Luisi) Keim. She had an older sister, Hannelore, born on March 21, 1929. They lived a comfortable middle class life. In 1938, the sisters were no longer allowed to attend their public school because they were Jewish. During the Kristallnacht pogrom that November 8-9, her father was arrested and sent to Dachau concentration camp, though eventually he was released.
    On October 22, 1940, the Gestapo came to the home and told the family that they could each pack one suitcase; they were being deported. The family, which also included her eighty year old paternal grandmother, Settchen Schwarzschild, was sent to Gurs internment camp in France. The family was separated, as men were housed apart from the women and children. The barracks were overcrowded and infested with vermin, and Margot remembers always being hungry. When some teenagers were caught smuggling food into the camp, her father was accused of being involved and sent to prison in Pau. He was released in March 1941 and the family was sent to Rivesaltes camp near Perpignan. In November, relief workers with the Red Cross affiliated Secours Suisse aux Enfants [Swiss Aid to Children] arranged to have the girls sent to the Pringy children’s home, but they had to return to Rivesaltes that summer. Following the Wannsee Conference in January 1942, the camps began the systematic deportation of Jews from France. On September 4, 1942, Margot’s father was deported on convoy 29 to Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. Their grandmother was sent to Noe internment camp near Toulouse. Margot, Hannelore, and Luisi were to be deported as well. But Luisi had packed the family photograph album in her suitcase and she was able to use the photograph of her Catholic communion ceremony to prove to the camp authorities that she was not Jewish. One of the nurses with Secours Suisse, Friedel Reiter (later Bohny-Reiter) was able to get the girls and their mother released. The girls were sent back to the children’s home in Pringy and their mother was given a job at a nearby Secours Suisse home in Cruseilles. Margot and Hannelore joined her there the following year. Their grandmother was transferred to La Guiche, a sanatorium/concentration camp and died soon after her arrival on March 7, 1944.
    After the end of the war in May 1945, Luisi and her daughters moved to Switzerland. She and her husband had selected the Secours Suisse office in Bern as their rendezvous point before his deportation. It became clear that he was not coming to meet them and they later learned that he had been killed at Auschwitz. On October 22, 1946, they returned to Kaiserslautern. The sisters finished their schooling: Margot became an interpreter and Hannelore, a kindergarten teacher. In 1952, Hannelore married Franz Wicki. In 1956, Margot married his brother, Josef, and they settled in his native Switzerland.

    Physical Details

    Language
    English
    Classification
    Art
    Category
    Prints
    Object Type
    Etching (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    Sepia ink etching on heavy paper portraying a young boy with large, dark, downcast eyes, brown ear length hair, and pronounced arched eyebrows. He wears a light brown scarf in a circle around his neck, a long sleeved dark jacket and pants, and his hands are in his trouser pockets. He is seen from the knees up and stands in the foreground center superimposed over a cityscape of tall dark rectangular buildings with rectangular windows and tall thin towers that fill the background. The title is pencilled on the reverse in cursive and in English.
    Dimensions
    overall: Height: 10.125 inches (25.718 cm) | Width: 6.500 inches (16.51 cm)
    pictorial area: Height: 6.875 inches (17.463 cm) | Width: 3.875 inches (9.843 cm)
    Materials
    overall : paper, ink, graphite
    Inscription
    reverse, cursive, pencil : Despair / (Etching)

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Provenance
    The etching was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2006 by Margot Schwarzschild Wicki.
    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 11:06:42
    This page:
    https:​/​/collections.ushmm.org​/search​/catalog​/irn518759

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