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Child's watercolor of a house near a lake in the Alps by a German Jewish refugee

Object | Accession Number: 2013.486.6

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    Child's watercolor of a house near a lake in the Alps by a German Jewish refugee

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    Brief Narrative
    Colored pencil drawing of a lakeside house drawn by 12 year old Fritz Vendig when he was living as a refugee from Nazi Germany in Maur, Switzerland, with his parents, Ernst and Charlotte, and younger brother Heiner. In the mid-1930s, Fritz's father's business was taken from him when it was Aryanized, or cleansed of Jews. In November 1938, Ernst was arrested during Kristallnacht. After his release, the family prepared to leave. On May 13, 1939, Fritz, 7, his parents Ernst and Charlotte, his brother Heiner, 2, and his paternal grandmother Pauline, sailed for Cuba on the MS St. Louis. Cuban authorities refused entry to nearly all passengers. Appeals were made to the Cuban and US governments, but the ship had to return to Europe. The family was given refuge in Belgium. In May 1940, Germany occupied Belgium and Ernst was deported to France and imprisoned in St. Cyprien and then Gurs internment camps. In 1941, Charlotte, the boys, and Pauline obtained false papers and illegally entered France to be near Ernst. In August 1942, they were all interned at Les Milles and then Rivesaltes, until Charlotte's sister in Switzerland managed to get them out of the camp and smuggled into Zurich. The war ended in May 1945 with Germany's surrender. Fritz (later Fred) and his family emigrated to the United States in 1946.
    Artwork Title
    Lakeside House, Maur, Switzerland, April 1944
    creation:  1944 April
    creation: Maur (Switzerland)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Stephanie Vendig
    Artist: Fred Vendig
    Subject: Fred Vendig
    Fritz Dieter Vendig (Fred, 1932-2001) was born in Kaiserslautern, Germany, to Charlotte (née Berstein, 1907-1988) and Ernst Vendig (1899-1956). Ernst was born in Kaiserslautern to Paulina (Lina, née Marx, 1872-1959) and David Vendig (1865-1930). David and Paulina married in January 7, 1894. During World War I, David served for over a year in a German Field Artillery Regiment. Charlotte was born in Hachenburg, to Jenny (née Stern, 1867-1940) and Isaac Bernstein, a cattle dealer. Charlotte had two brothers, Ernst, and Robert, who, with his wife Gertrude left for the United States before the war, and a sister Anne, who married Jules Heim and moved to Zurich, Switzerland. Charlotte and Ernst Vendig married on August 17, 1930. Soon after this, Ernst’s father died following a car accident. They lived with Ernst’s mother Lina. Ernst owned a store which sold ready-to-wear clothing for men and women. Charlotte worked with Ernst in the business. Fritz had one younger brother, Heiner (Henry, 1937-2003).

    On January 30, 1933, Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, and the Nazi regime passed legislation to disenfranchise the Jewish population. Nazi Party SA members, known as brown shirts, stood guard at the Vendig store entrance to stop customers from entering, as part of a boycott of all Jewish businesses. After three weeks, the threatening crowds lessened, but the news media continued to spread anti-Jewish propaganda. Charlotte wanted to leave Germany, but Ernst and his mother did not. Around this time, Charlotte’s parents went to live with her sister Anne in Zurich. In the summer of 1935, Ernst was arrested while talking to two friends. They were accused of holding a political meeting and held for three weeks. At the end of 1936, Ernst’s business was Aryanized and he was forced to sell the store. The family moved to Berlin, where Ernst had established a clothing factory. Ernst closed the business which was losing money in 1938. Ernst was arrested during the Kristallnacht pogrom of November 9-10, 1938, and imprisoned in Oranienburg concentration camp. Dr. Hugo Heim, a former Deutsche Bank director and relative by marriage to Fritz’s aunt Anne, secured Ernst’s release after three weeks. Ernst had been beaten and his head shaved. The family prepared to leave Germany. Fritz’s mother had a brother and sister-in-law in the United States, but they had missed the US quota deadline, and sought Paraguayan visas. Then a new law passed, requiring the payment of an exorbitant Jewish tax for wealthy people seeking to emigrate. They could not get passports until that was paid, and by then, their Paraguayan visas expired. They arranged first class passage to Cuba on the ocean liner MS St. Louis. Their furniture and other belongings were shipped ahead to New York.

    Fritz, his parents, brother, and grandmother, Lina, left Hamburg on May 13, 1939, and arrived in Cuba on May 27. Nearly all 937 passengers were Jewish refugees, hoping to escape from Nazi dominated Europe. The plan was to wait in Cuba for permission to enter the US, but Cuban authorities denied entry to all but 28 passengers. Despite urgent pleas to the Cuban and American governments, the refugees were denied permission to enter Cuba or the US and had to return to Europe on June 6. As a member of the ship’s passenger committee, Ernst, along with the other members, worked to resolve this emergency. As a result, Jewish aid organizations convinced four European governments, Belgium, Great Britain, France, and the Netherlands, to admit the passengers rather than return them to Germany. The Vendig family disembarked in Antwerp, Belgium. In April 1939, the family settled in Brussels, with the aid of the American Joint Distribution Committee. They had no money since they were only allowed to take ten marks with them when they left Germany. Fritz attended school and quickly learned French.

    In September 1939, Germany invaded Poland, beginning World War II. On May 10, 1940, Germany invaded Belgium. That morning, Belgian police arrested Ernst as an enemy alien. Belgium surrendered on May 28. The family’s identification papers were taken and replaced with a passport marked J for Jew. Charlotte tried to get the family to France, as she had promised Ernst. They reached La Panne, but the fighting made it impossible to reach France and they returned to Brussels. Their landlord Mr. Couvrer welcomed them and let them stay, even though they had no money. Fred returned to school. After several months, they received a Red Cross postcard from Ernst. He was in St. Cyprien internment camp, and then Gurs, in southern France. A Dutch couple gave them money to hire a smuggler to take them to France with false papers. They went to Chessneuil. Charlotte contacted Ernst at Les Milles camp, and he was given a short leave. In May 1941, the family settled in Aix-en-Provence in Free France, and Ernst visited one day a week. In August 1942, Ernst was sent to Aubagne work camp. He warned them that the Germans had begun deporting prisoners to concentration camps in the east. Charlotte’s brother, Ernst, his wife Elizabeth, and their children, Franz, 6, and Eva, 5, had already been deported from occupied France. On August 4, 1942, the entire family was interned at Les Milles. Men and women were housed separately. The camp commandant took pity on the family and kept them from four deportation transports. But the next month, they were sent to Rivesaltes camp where transports were loaded for Auschwitz. Ernst found a guard from Les Milles and reminded him they were exempt from deportations, and they were not put on the waiting trains. Then a woman with a Red Cross armband, Charlotte Leuenberger, found Charlotte and told her that her sister, Anne, had sent her to get the family to Zurich. She was also able to secure the release of two friends of the family. They traveled by train from Aix to Evian, and then were smuggled over the border to Switzerland on September 14, 1942. They were confronted by the border police, but were allowed to stay because of the young children and their grandmother, as well as the required paper work from Zurich. They were sent to a refugee camp in Bex, and later moved to Maur. The war ended when Germany surrendered on May 7, 1945. Charlotte’s brother and his family had perished in the camps. The family immigrated to the United States in 1946. Fritz and Heiner Americanized their names to Fred and Henry. Fred moved to California, and in August 1959 married Stephanie Klakoff (b. 1936).

    Physical Details

    Children's art
    Physical Description
    Child’s watercolor with pencil underdrawings on graph paper with a perforated left edge. In the left foreground, 2 green fir trees partly obscure a blue 4-story house with mansard roof. The house is perched above a large light blue lake surrounded with large gray mountains on the opposite shore. The sky is uncolored.
    overall: Height: 8.625 inches (21.908 cm) | Width: 6.625 inches (16.828 cm)
    overall : paper, watercolor, graphite
    back, bottom right corner, pencil : Maur / April 44

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Corporate Name
    St. Louis (Ship)

    Administrative Notes

    The drawing was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2013 by Stephanie Vendig, wife of Fred Vendig.
    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:
    2023-06-02 09:15:39
    This page:

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