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Watercolor self-portrait by a Polish Jewish refugee in Stuttgart DP camp

Object | Accession Number: 2012.426.2

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    Brief Narrative
    Watercolor self-portrait created by 20 year old Cai Her Wajnsztat (later Zvi Weinstadt) in Stuttgart displaced persons camp in Germany. In February 1940, the Germans turned the Jewish quarter of Łódź, Poland, where Zvi lived with his parents, Icek and Blima, and his 11 year old sister Hadasa, into a sealed ghetto. In September 1942, Blima and the children were rounded up for transport to Chelmno killing center. Zvi and Hadasa jumped off the wagon, but when Blima jumped, she was run over. Icek brought her home. Soon after, he was taken away and Blima died of her injuries. On August 8, 1944, Zvi and Hadasa were transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. The siblings were separated. Hadasa remained in the camp and died after being hospitalized in September 1944. Icek was selected for work and soon deported to Dachau and then to a subcamp, Kaufering IV. In April 1945, he was transferred back to Dachau, where he was liberated by US soldiers and then hospitalized for tuberculosis. On September 11, he was released from the hospital at Bietigheim DP camp, where he stayed until July 1946 when he transferred to Stuttgart DP camp. In early 1947, Zvi boarded a ship for Palestine. The British Navy intercepted the ship and placed the Jewish refugees in an internment camp on Cyprus. The State of Israel was established in May 1948. Zvi immigrated to Israel in 1949. In the 1950s, Zvi married Ester Steinkeller, a survivor from Katowice, Poland.
    Artwork Title
    Self-portrait of Zvi Weinstadt, Stuttgart DP camp, 1946 - 1947
    creation:  1946 July-approximately 1947
    creation: Stuttgart (Displaced persons camp); Stuttgart (Germany)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Ester and Zvi Weinstadt
    Subject: Zvi Weinstadt
    Artist: Zvi Weinstadt
    Subject: Ester Weinstadt
    Cwi (Rysio) Hersz Wajnsztat (later Zvi Weinstadt) was born on July 10, 1926 in Łódź, Poland, to Icek and Blima Bronislawa Bresler Wajnsztat. Icek, a merchant, was born on July 20, 1898, and Blima was born on July 5, 1901, both in Łódź. Zvi’s younger sister, Hadasa, was born on February 24, 1929. The family lived on Limanowskiego Street, near old town, where Icek ran a store.
    Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, and occupied Łódź one week later. The Germans renamed it Litzmannstadt and, in February 1940, a sealed ghetto was established in the northeastern section of the city, where the Wajnsztat family lived. Living conditions within the ghetto were terrible, and got worse as more Jewish people were transported into the small area. Zvi and Hadasa attended schools in the ghetto until September 1941. In January 1942, the German authorities began mass deportations of Jews from the ghetto to Chelmno killing center. During Aktion Gehsperre, September 5-12, 1941, Zvi, Hadasa, and Blima were rounded up for transport to Chelmno, but Zvi and Hadasa jumped off the wagon and escaped. When Blima jumped off, she landed poorly and the wagon ran over her legs. Icek brought her back to their apartment in the ghetto. Shortly after he brought Blima home, Icek was taken away. On January 26, 1943, Blima died from her injuries, and Zvi and Hadasa were left alone.
    Zvi was arrested on August 8, 1944, and he and Hadasa were transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp and separated. He was deported to Dachau concentration camp in Germany, where he received prisoner number 95176 before being transferred to a Dachau sub-camp, Kaufering IV, on September 1. In early April 1945, Zvi was transferred back to Dachau, and was there on April 28, 1945, when US soldiers liberated the camp. The US Army’s 127th Evacuation Hospital entered the camp during the first few days of liberation, and on May 12, processed Zvi and began treating him for tuberculosis. In June, Zvi was transferred to the tuberculosis hospital at Bietigheim displaced persons camp in Germany. He was released from the hospital on September 11, and remained at Bietigheim until July 1946, when he transferred to Stuttgart DP camp.
    In early 1947, Zvi boarded a ship bound for Palestine. The British Navy intercepted the ship, and sent all of the Jewish emigrants aboard to internment camps on Cyprus. Palestine was ruled by the British mandate authorized by the United Nations. The State of Israel was established on May 14, 1948. The British had been permitting Jewish internees to leave Cyprus for Palestine since the beginning of the year, and these transports continued as thry emptied the nternment camps. Zvi immigrated to Israel in 1949 and changed his name to Zvi Weinstadt. In 1952, he married Ester Steinkeller, a fellow Polish Holocaust survivor who worked as a kindergarten teacher. In the 1950s, Zvi learned that his father, Icek, had been killed shortly after being transported from the Łódź ghetto. His sister, Hadasa, had been hospitalized at Auschwitz-Birkenau in September 1944, and died, presumably around that time. The couple settled in Ramat Hasharon. Zvi owns a woodworking studio and creates sculptures in wood and stone, often dealing with his personal losses and in remembrance of those who died during the Shoah.
    Ester Edzia Steinkeller (Sztajnkeller) was born on October 18, 1930, in Katowice, Poland, to Abram and Rebeka Ryfcia Stapler Steinkeller. Both Abram and Ryfcia were from prominent Jewish families Abram was born on May 15, 1901 in Pilica, to Hersh and Malka Steinkeller. Hersh was a merchant in Bedzin. Ryfcia was born on September 8, 1907 in Brezezinka, Poland, to Berl and Sara Frisher Stapler. Berl was a baker in Brezezinka. Abram became a furrier and owned his own fur salon in Katowice.Abram and Ryfcia married in 1927. The family lived on the second floor above the store. Their first daughter, Roza, was born on April 4, 1928. She attended a public Polish school until Ester began first grade, when both girls were sent to a Jewish school in the Katowice suburb of Bogucice.

    In summer 1939, Abram and Ryfcia moved their family to Bedzin. Abram’s parents were there and the family owned a building on Malachowskiego Street in the town center. The move also placed them further away from the border with Germany and the political tensions created by the recent territorial aggressions and antisemitic actions of the Nazi government. As those tensions increased, the Steinkeller family fled eastward, but soon returned to Bedzin. Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. The German army entered Bedzin on September 5, and killed the male leaders of the Jewish community. Abram survived by going into hiding for a time. On September 10, the Germans burned down the synagogue and the surrounding Jewish neighborhood. The German authorities forced the Jews to wear Star of David armbands and requisitioned their property. Their building was confiscated by the Germans and assigned to a trustee. Jews were able to come and go from Bedzin, so Ryfcia and Ester returned to Katowice to attempt to recover some of their family valuables; most had been stolen.

    In February 1940, the family relocated to the nearby town of Sosnowiec, Poland. Ester and Roza attended school illegally, and Ester remembers sometimes going to the library without wearing her Star of David armband. In 1941, the German authorities began transporting Jews from Sosnowiec to nearby forced labor camps. In March, Abram was transported to a labor camp. They were able to correspond with him at first, but lost contact after 1941. At the end of 1942, the Jews living in the Sosnowiec ghetto were being relocated to the suburb of Srodula. Ryfcia and her daughters were forced to move there in January 1943 and had to share an apartment with another family. Roza and Ryfcia were assigned to a sewing workshop, while Ester stayed alone in the apartment. On August 1, the Germans began to liquidate the ghetto and rounded up large numbers of Jews for transport to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Ryfcia and her daughters hid in a bunker, where they had hidden during earlier, smaller round-ups. The ghetto was almost empty when they were found and taken to a central location with others Jews that had been hiding. Before they were transported, Roza was taken away from the group by a local youth Zionist organization under the pretense that she was needed for the cleaning commando. Ryfcia escaped with Ester by bribing a guard. They walked toward Katowice, travelling from village to village asking for help. No one was willing to help, and Ester was terrified of being caught and tortured by the Germans. While they were hiding, she had overheard a group of Polish men searching for Jews talk about what they would do to any Jews that they caught. By late 1943, Ryfcia and Ester realized that they had nowhere else to go, and returned to Sosnowiec. In December, Ryfcia was separated from Ester and transported to a camp.

    On January 13, 1944, Ester, was taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau, and tattooed with prisoner number 74413. She was made to work moving stone. She later worked in the infirmary, where she helped move the corpses out. Ester, age thirteen, was the youngest person in her block. In September, the woman overseeing Ester’s block showed some kindness, and had her transferred to Auschwitz I, where the conditions were slightly better. In January 1945, Auschwitz was evacuated due to the approach of Soviet troops. Many prisoners, including Ester, were transported to Ravensbrück concentration camp in Germany. In February, Ester was transferred again, this time to the Malhof camp. On April 2, Ester was placed on a transport to Leipzig-Schonefeld (HASAG), a Buchenwald subcamp. Later that month, the transport was liberated by Soviet soldiers. Germany surrendered on May 7, 1945.

    Ester returned to Katowice, and remained there until May or June 1946 when she decided to emigrate. She travelled to Linz, Austria, and then onto Torino, Italy, where, in March 1947, she boarded a ship bound for Palestine. In December 1948, she arrived in Israel and began working as a kindergarten teacher. Her sister, Roza, survived in hiding and was liberated by the British Army in April 1945 in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Roza made her way to Israel, where she changed her name to Shoshana and married Mordechai Shalev. In the 1950s, Ester learned what had happened to her family. Her father, Abram, was transported to Breslau-Hundsfeld, a subcamp of Gross Rosen concentration camp, and killed on August 19, 1943. Her mother, Ryfcia, was transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau in December 1943. She passed inspection, but died not long after. In 1943, both sets of grandparents, Hersh, Malka, Berl, and Sara, were transported from Bedzin to Auschwitz-Birkenau and murdered. In 1952, Ester married Zvi Weinstadt, a fellow Polish Holocaust survivor, now a sculptor with a woodworking studio. They settled in Ramat Hasharon.

    Physical Details

    Object Type
    Self-portraits (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    Realistic self-portrait in watercolor with pencil underdrawings on brown paper depicting the head and shoulders of a young man turned slightly right with his chin down. His piercing blue eyes look forward, and his full red lips are firmly set. He wears a blue sleeveless undershirt. The sculptural details of his face and hair are finely painted and shaded in various tones of brown, orange, yellow, blue, red, and green. His head is outlined by a multicolored toned background. On the back are several lines of Hebrew text, a partial fingerprint, and tape.
    overall: Height: 12.375 inches (31.433 cm) | Width: 9.750 inches (24.765 cm)
    overall : paper, watercolor, ink, graphite, pressure-sensitive tape
    back, center, Hebrew, cursive, pencil : [illegible]

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The self-portrait was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2012 by Zvi and Ester Steinkeller Weinstadt.
    Funding Note
    The acquisition of this artifact was made possible by the Crown Family.
    Record last modified:
    2023-12-15 15:03:46
    This page:

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