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Abstract oil painting of figures imprisoned behind a barred opening on a snow covered hill by Jerzy Bitter

Object | Accession Number: 2005.569.1

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    Brief Narrative
    Artwork created by Jerzy Bitter in Israel in 1988, representing the plight of Jewish peasants trying to escape persecution during the Holocaust. The oil depicts tortured abstract figures imprisoned in a stark, dreamlike landscape. In 1941, when he was 6 months old, Jerzy and his parents left their hometown of Lvov for the Warsaw ghetto. They lived in the ghetto until the summer of 1942 when Jerzy and his mother escaped during a mass deportation. They lived in hiding and escaped Warsaw during a forced evacuation by the Germans in September 1944. They settled in Wieliczka, Poland. His father remained in the ghetto during the Warsaw ghetto uprising in spring 1943. After the uprising was put down by the Germans in May, he was deported to Majdanek concentration camp. Upon his liberation in 1944, he was reunited with his wife and son and they returned to Warsaw.
    Artwork Title
    No Way Out
    creation:  1988
    creation: Israel
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of the Henry and Rosa Segal Foundation
    lower right corner, red paint : Jerzy BiTTer
    Artist: Jerzy Bitter
    Subject: Jerzy Bitter
    Frederick (Jerzy) Bitter was born on April 4, 1941, in Lvov, Poland [Lviv, Ukraine)]. His mother, Cecylia, a vocational school administrator, was born on July 31, 1912, in Przemyśl, Poland. His father, Marek Bitter, an electrician, was born on April 4, 1941. Though Jewish, the family was not religious, and adhered to Communist and Socialist ideals. On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland. Cecylia fled Przemyśl, and settled in the Soviet occupied city of Lvov, where she met and married Marek. The Germans captured Lvov on June 30, 1941, bringing with them an Einsatzgruppen [mobile killing squad]. The non-Jewish population joined with them in acts of violence against the Jews and there were a series of deadly, locally led pogroms. The family was relocated to the old Jewish quarter of Lvov. As violence against the Jews increased, the extended Bitter family fled for the Warsaw ghetto; as it was a closed ghetto, they thought it would be safer. Many family members were killed by Germans during the trip. Jerzy and his mother left in October and traveled to Warsaw by train. The family lived in an apartment while Marek worked in a factory. Food was scarce and they often shared a single bowl of soup as their only meal. Due to the harsh conditions in the ghetto, Jerzy became extremely ill and almost died. In the summer of 1942, Cecylia escaped with Jerzy during a mass deportation and hid him with a Polish Christian family. They were reunited 6 months later and lived in hiding. Marek remained in the ghetto during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, which began on April 19, 1943, when Jewish residents of the ghetto, faced with deportation to the camps, resisted German forces. It ended on May 16, 1943, with the destruction of the ghetto. Marek was then sent to Majdanek concentration camp. Jerzy and Cecylia left Warsaw in 1944, during an evacuation, and settled in the small mining town of Wieliczka, near Krakow. Marek was liberated from Majdanek by the Russian army on July 24, 1944. He was reunited with his family and they returned to Warsaw.

    Marek died in Poland. Cecylia received a Ph.D in economics in 1965 and immigrated to the United States in 1968. Jerzy earned a Masters in Chemistry in 1965 from the Warsaw Polytechnic Institute. While pursuing his Ph.D in Physical Chemistry in Israel, he was partially paralyzed in a scooter accident. He immigrated to New York City in 1968 and started to paint as part of his therapy. He graduated from New York University in 1975 with a Masters in Fine Arts, married, and had a daughter. His abstract works, chronicling the Holocaust, have been exhibited worldwide.

    Physical Details

    Physical Description
    Large oil painting on canvas in a light brown wooden frame depicting a surrealistic scene of villagers trying to escape a pogrom. Figures in peasant garb stand against a pink colored background with a barred doorway dominating the foreground. A female in a pink dress and white shoes stands in front of the barred gate with her back to the viewer. On the left is a woman with disproportionally long arms and hands wearing a brown dress. On the right are 2 vaguely human figures; one is multi-colored and the other is brown. In the middle ground is a group of women with purple headscarves and brown, gray, and purple dresses: 2 hold their heads in their hands in despair; 2 have long, exaggerated, oversized extremities and pained facial expressions. To the right is a brown haired woman in profile superimposed over a larger, dark gray, featureless silhouette. In the upper background, contrasting with the pink middle ground is a brown building. To the left and right are bare trees and a blue and pink sky. The artist’s use of pastels suggests a cold, barren, winter landscape. The abstract figures and dream like setting convey a sense of disconnectivity to a harsher reality imagined by the artist through descriptions of those who remember. The artist’s signature and date are in the lower right corner.
    overall: Height: 53.625 inches (136.208 cm) | Width: 63.500 inches (161.29 cm)
    pictorial area: Height: 49.500 inches (125.73 cm) | Width: 59.750 inches (151.765 cm)
    overall : oil paint, canvas, wood

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Personal Name
    Bitter, Jerzy, 1941-

    Administrative Notes

    The painting was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2005 by the Henry and Rosa Segal Foundation.
    Record last modified:
    2023-11-15 13:33:46
    This page:

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