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Portrait of a young female inmate created in Theresienstadt ghetto

Object | Accession Number: 2005.517.2

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    Brief Narrative
    Portrait drawing of 19-year old Trudy (Gertrude) Blau done in the Theresienstadt ghetto on January 13, 1944, by Alfred Bergel. In 1942, Trudy and her family were deported by the Germans from Vienna, Austria, to Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia. In 1944, Trudy volunteered to go to Auschwitz with friends selected for transport. From there, she was sent to Kurzbach labor camp, where she worked digging ditches and contracted typhoid fever. In January 1945, the Germans evacuated the camp because of advancing Soviet forces. Trudy was liberated during the forced march in Liegnitz, Germany. She found her family in Theresienstadt in spring 1945. The Red Cross took over the Terezin camp on May 2. The family was transferred to Deggendorf displaced persons camp in Germany where they lived until their emigration to the United States in 1948. Bergel, age 42, had been deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp and murdered in October 1944.
    Artwork Title
    Portrait of Trudy Blau at 19
    creation:  1944 January 13
    creation: Theresienstadt (concentration camp); Terezin (Ustecky kraj, Czech Republic)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Jeffrey A. Gordon
    front, right beneath portrait, pencil : Terezin / 13.1.1944 / Bergel
    Artist: Alfred Bergel
    Subject: Alfred Bergel
    Subject: Gertrude Gordon
    Alfred Bergel was born in Olmütz, Czechoslovakia (Olomouc, Czech Republic), on January 4, 1902. He earned a medical degree in the 1920s. He was a talented artist and taught at the primary school in the Jewish community of Vienna, Austria. In March 1938, Austria was annexed by Nazi Germany. Anti-Jewish legislation was enacted and the civil rights of Jews were dissolved. On October 9, 1942, Alfred and his wife were deported by the Germans to Theresienstadt concentration camp in German occupied Czechoslovakia. Alfred was housed in the male artist house, where he worked for the Germans. When he was not doing official work, he created portraits of fellow prisoners and of daily life in the camp. On October 12, 1944, he and his wife were transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, where they were murdered.
    Gertrude Blau was born on March 14, 1925, in Vienna, Austria to Adolph Blau and Elsa Rosenthal. Her father, Adolph, was a decorated, disabled World War II veteran who was a licensed tobacco vendor. Her mother, Elsa, was a graduate of the Vienna Conservatory of Music. Her brother, Herbert, was born on July 28, 1931. They were an observant Jewish family and Gertrude was interested in Zionist youth activities. On March 12, 1938, German troops marched into Austria and annexed the country. Anti-Jewish legislation was soon enacted to strip Jews of their civil rights. The November 1938 Kristallnacht [Night of Broken Glass] pogrom was particularly brutal in Austria. Synagogues were destroyed, Jewish businesses were vandalized, and thousands of Jews were deported to concentration camps.

    By 1939, Gertrude and the other Jewish children were no longer allowed to attend school. For a while, they met secretly in the cemetery or at the Jewish Federation Office to have classes in Jewish culture and general subjects taught by Jewish teachers who had been banned from teaching. In August 1942, Gertrude and her family, including her 72 year-old maternal grandmother, Fanny Rosenthal, were deported by the Germans to Theresienstadt concentration camp. The family was separated as men and women were housed in different barracks. Shortly after arriving, Gertrude contracted hepatitis. While in Theresienstadt, Gertrude continued to get religious instruction, in secret, with Rabbi Leo Baeck. Trude was head caretaker in the children's barracks where Ursula Lenneberg worked.Trude later got a job in the office because of her friendship with Sigi Kwasniewski, the head of the youth homes. In October 1944, Gertrude volunteered to go to Auschwitz with friends who were selected for transport. After three days, they were sent to Kurzbach labor camp, a subcamp of Gross Rosen, where they were put to work digging ditches for the defense of Germany. Gertrude contracted typhoid fever. Around January 1945, the Germans decided to evacuate the camp because of the encroaching Soviet Army and the inmates were forced on death marches. Gertrude was too sick to go very far, and begged to be left behind. Since Gertrude spoke French, she eventually was able to join a group of French prisoners-of-wars. After 2 weeks, they were liberated by the Soviets in Liegnitz, Germany.

    After a few months, when the war was over, Gertrude was allowed to go to Czechoslovakia, first Prague and then Theresienstadt, to search for her family. She found them in Theresienstadt where they all had survived. The family was sent to the Deggendorf displaced persons camp in Germany to await immigration to the United States. In 1946, Gertrude was sent to Italy by a Zionist group that helped smuggle people into Palestine. While travelling through Italy she met Abraham Gordon who would become her husband. Soon after this, she learned that her group was a decoy, and that they would not be going to Palestine. She and Abraham decided to return to their families and try to emigrate to the United States. In November 1947, with the assistance of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, Gertrude and her family were permitted to go to the United States. She and Abraham reunited in the United States and married on August 22, 1948. They settled in Vineland, New Jersey, and had one son. Adolph died in 1958 and Elsa died in 1987. Gertrude was the 47,000th person to immigrate to the US after the war. She worked to raise money to bring more displaced Jews to the country and remained active in Holocaust remembrance education all her life. Gertrude passed away, age 84, on March 30, 2009.

    Physical Details

    Physical Description
    Rectangular, thick, white paper with a detailed, realistic portrait in pencil of a young woman, looking out towards the viewer with a direct gaze. She is turned slightly to the left and is seen from the shoulders up. She has bold eyebrows, a sharply defined nose and lips, and dark, wavy shoulder-length hair tucked behind her left ear. She wears a darkly shaded top with a thin, lightly shaded, patterned collar with 3 buttons. There are 2 lines for a necklace or tag that is not depicted, extending over her collar. Artist's signature and date are on the right below the image.
    overall: Height: 9.750 inches (24.765 cm) | Width: 7.000 inches (17.78 cm)
    overall : paper, graphite, ink
    reverse, top, handwritten, blue ink : Trudy Blau Gordon

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The portrait drawing was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2005 by Jeffrey A. Gordon, the son of Gertrude Blau Gordon.
    Record last modified:
    2023-06-23 11:00:48
    This page:

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