Advanced Search

Learn About The Holocaust

Special Collections

My Saved Research

Login

Register

Help

Skip to main content

Esther Lurie full length self-portrait while a concentration camp inmate

Object | Accession Number: 1995.A.0989.22

Search this record's additional resources, such as finding aids, documents, or transcripts.

No results match this search term.
Check spelling and try again.

results are loading

0 results found for “keyward

    Overview

    Brief Narrative
    Full length self-portrait in a prison uniform drawn by Esther Lurie ca. 1957, based upon one she had drawn in 1944 while a prisoner in Stutthof concentration camp. Esther recreated the drawing in 1957 for possible inclusion in the album A Living Testimony. Esther, originally from Liepaja, Latvia, settled in Palestine in 1934. She was visiting her sister in Kovno (Kaunas, Lithuania] in summer 1941, when it was occupied by Nazi Germany. She was confined to the ghetto and had to create portraits and paintings for the Germans. She also, at the request of the Jewish Council, dedicated herself to recording the daily life of the residents. In July 1944, the ghetto was liquidated. Esther was sent to Stutthof concentration camp, where she continued to draw. Her family members were sent to Auschwitz and murdered. In August 1944, Esther was deported to Leibitsch, and liberated by the Soviet Army on January 21, 1945. During the journey back to Palestine, she lived in a displaced persons camp in Italy, where her drawings of Leibitsch were exhibited.
    Artwork Title
    Self-Portrait, Full Length, Stutthof Concentration Camp, 1944, recreation 1957
    Date
    creation:  1957
    depiction:  1944
    Geography
    creation: Tel Aviv (Israel)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Esther Lurie
    Signature
    front, bottom, ink : Hebrew text [Ester Lurie According to a sketch from the Concentration Camp Stutthof, 1944 Sketch # 196]
    Contributor
    Artist: Esther Lurie
    Subject: Esther Lurie
    Biography
    Esther Lurie (1913-1998) was born in Liepaja (formerly Libau), Latvia, to a religious, intellectual Jewish family. Her parents were Josef and Bluma and she had five older sisters and an older brother. The family was forced to move to Riga during World War I (1914-1918), when Liepāja, a Baltic seaport which was then part of the Russian Empire, was taken over as a military port. Esther’s artistic gifts were nurtured from an early age. From 1931 -1934, she studied theatrical set design at the Instituts des Arts Decoratifs in Brussels, Belgium; in early 1934, she went to Antwerp, Belgium, to study drawing and painting at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts. Most of her family emigrated to Palestine in 1934 and Esther joined them there. She worked with the Hebrew Theater, producing set decorations, and by 1938, had her first one women art show, winning the Dizengoff Prize.

    In 1939, Esther went on a study-exhibition tour throughout Europe. She was visiting her sister, Muta, in Kovno (Kaunus), Lithuania, when World War II broke out and she was trapped in the area. In 1940, the Soviet Army invaded and occupied Lithuania and the persecution of Jews became widespread. In June-July 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union and soon occupied Lithuania. Almost immediately, German Einsatzgruppe (mobile killing units) and their Lithuanian auxiliaries began systematic massacres of Jews throughout the country. By November 1941, the surviving Jews of Kovno were imprisoned in a sealed ghetto surrounded by barbed wire. It was extreme overcrowded and there weresevere food shortages and frequent outbreaks of disease.

    Esther immediately began to record her experiences with sketches and written testimony on whatever little scraps of paper she could find. This was not easy and it could be dangerous – they were always under observation from guards. But other ghetto residents who saw her drawings thought it was important that someone should show ‘how it was’ and make a permanent record of their sufferings. Strangers would let her sketch the scenes from the windows of their rooms. When she was sent to do forced labor, the Judenrat [Jewish Council of Elders] made arrangements for her to be relieved, so that she could continue to record the life of the ghetto. As Esther noted later in her ife: “Pictures are both eye-witness documents and a memorial for the lost souls.”

    As deportations from the ghettos to the concentration camps increased, Esther became concerned about the survival of her work. She asked the craftsmen in the pottery workshop to make her large jars in which she would hide her work. In the autumn of 1943, the ghetto was converted to the Kauen concentration camp. In July 1944, they began to liquidate the ghetto, deporting the remaining inhabitants and burning the buildings. At this time, Esther was separated from her sister, Muta Zarchin (Zarhin). Esther was deported to Stutthof concentration camp; Muta, age 35, her young son, and her family were sent to Auschwitz, where they were killed on arrival. In August 1944, Esther was sent to the Leibisch forced labor camp, where she continued to document the people and scenes of her daily life. She drew on scraps of paper backing from cotton rolls from the camp infirmary and hid the sketches in her clothing. Occasionally, she was able to barter a drawing for a piece of bread.

    On January 21, 1945, the camp was liberated by the Soviet Army. She worked briefly as an interpreter for the Russians in Italy. Because she was a citizen of Palestine, a British protectorate, she was placed with a group of liberated British prisoners of war. She also met some Jewish soldiers from Palestine, including the artist, Menachem Shemi. They organized an exhibit of her sketches and published them as a booklet, Jewesses in Slavery: 15 drawing from a Labour Camp. In July, she was repatriated to Palestine and reunited with her family. She and her sisters participated in the Haganah, a defense organization active in the struggle for the establishment of the independent state of Israel. She married Joseph Shapiro and they had two children. She resumed her career as a professional artist, and, in 1946, was awarded her 2nd Dizengoff Prize. Some of her drawings of the Kovno ghetto were recovered by a friend, Avraham Golub Tory, who had been secretary to the Council of Elders, kept safe in the pottery jars in the secret, buried ghetto archives. Her artwork would be presented as evidence of the Holocaust during the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem in 1961. Lurie lived in Tel Aviv, Israel, until her death.

    Physical Details

    Language
    Hebrew
    Classification
    Art
    Category
    Drawings
    Object Type
    Self-portraits (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    Drawing in pencil on paper of a full length portrait of a young woman with short, cropped hair, wearing a long sleeved, loose fitting tunic tucked into loose fitting pants, with bare feet. She has dark eyes and eyebrows and a sad thoughtful expression. Her head is tilted right and her arms hang straight at her sides. There is a date and Hebrew inscription at the bottom.
    Dimensions
    overall: Height: 13.625 inches (34.608 cm) | Width: 9.875 inches (25.083 cm)
    Materials
    overall : paper, graphite

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Personal Name
    Lurie, Esther.

    Administrative Notes

    Provenance
    The drawing was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1995 by Esther Lurie.
    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:
    2024-03-12 09:38:42
    This page:
    https:​/​/collections.ushmm.org​/search​/catalog​/irn61225

    Download & Licensing

    In-Person Research

    Contact Us