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Watercolor of Auschwitz painted by a Polish Jewish artist after the Holocaust

Object | Accession Number: 2018.377.1

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    Watercolor of Auschwitz painted by a Polish Jewish artist after the Holocaust

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    Brief Narrative
    Watercolor painting of Auschwitz concentration camp in German-occupied Poland painted by Holocaust survivor Fred Veston in Albuquerque, New Mexico after his immigration in 1955. Fred was a jeweler who lived in Kraków, Poland, with his wife and two daughters, when Germany invaded on September 1, 1939. Within a week, Kraków was occupied and the Germans initiated immediate measures aimed at persecuting the Jews of the city. They took Fred’s store, the family’s apartment, and their valuables. The Germans began searching for Fred after learning he dealt in Jewish jewelry. Fred’s neighbor, a Catholic priest, hid his wife and daughters while Fred and four other family members fled Kraków. Fred went east, but the other family members decided to return to Kraków and their families. Fred exchanged bits of gold he carried for loaves of bread and kept on the move, going from place to place. He reached Lemberg (now Lviv, Ukraine) and found the situation no better than Kraków. Fred later found refuge in the Tatra Mountains along the Czechoslovakia-Poland border. There, he joined other Jewish refugees hiding with Polish partisan groups, who were fighting the Germans. Fred stayed there until the war’s end. In the fall of 1942, the Nazis found Fred’s wife and children and transported them to Auschwitz where they were killed. Overall, 72 members of Fred’s family were killed in the Holocaust. After the war Fred married Barbara Eugenia, a family friend and a fellow survivor. The couple emigrated from Poland, first living in Tel Aviv, Israel, and then settling in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
    creation:  1955-1980
    depiction: Auschwitz (Concentration camp); Oświęcim (Poland)
    creation: Albuquerque (N.M.)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Sondra Rosenthal Eastham
    front, upper right, black paint : BADE ANSTALT [BATH HOUSE]
    front, bottom center, black paint : F.Veston
    Subject: Fred Veston
    Artist: Fred Veston
    Fred Veston (1899-1980, born Feiwel Wetstein) was born in Kraków, Austria-Hungary (now Poland), to Anna and Nathan Wetstein. Fred was the fourth of seven children, he had four brothers and two sisters. Nathan was a merchant and Anna stayed home to take care of the family. They were a conservative family, Fred attended cheder, Nathan took the boys to shul, they kept kosher, and the kids would sing together on Friday evenings while the neighbors would come and listen. Fred went to school until they were converted to serve as hospitals during World War I. Fred’s older brothers worked at his father’s store, but joined the army at the outset of World War I. After the conclusion of the war, they became jewelers. During the war, Fred began a jeweler’s apprenticeship. Fred was not involved in politics, but was a Zionist, and was involved in a Zionist organization. In 1922, Fred married Rella (or Regina) in Kraków. Later he was able to establish his own jewelry store. Fred fashioned gold and silver handmade jewelry, and he bought and sold antique jewelry to museums and synagogues in Kraków. In 1930, Fred’s mother Anna died unexpectedly, she was 59. In the 1930’s Fred’s youngest brother moved to England. By 1939, Fred and his wife had two daughters and they lived in a small apartment.

    When Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, Fred was on the road for business, but he came home immediately. Kraków was occupied by German forces within a week of the invasion. The German military authorities initiated immediate measures aimed at isolating, exploiting, and persecuting the Jews of the city. When he returned home, Fred found that the Germans had taken his store, the family’s apartment, and all of their valuables. He witnessed the Germans paving roads with Jewish tombstones. Fred also learned the Germans discovered he was a dealer in Jewish jewelry and were searching for him. Upon learning of Fred’s plight, his neighbor, a Catholic priest, offered to take care of his wife and daughters while Fred escaped. Fred fled Kraków with two of his brothers and two brothers-in-law. The five of them left with a group of twenty seven Jews.

    The roads were full of people fleeing the Nazi terror. Fred was able to bring some gold with him to aid with his new life in hiding. Fred headed east, but his brothers and brothers-in-law decided to return to Kraków to be with their families. While he was gone, the priest hid Fred’s wife and daughters in a small town outside the city. Fred kept on the move constantly, going from place to place and house to house, refusing to sleep in the same place twice. He sold his bits of gold for loaves of bread. He went east until he reached Lemberg (now Lviv, Ukraine) which he found occupied by the Germans and the situation for Jews was no better. Fred then made his way to south western Poland, where he found refuge in the Tatra Mountains, a wilderness area along the Czechoslovakia-Poland border where Polish partisan groups continued fighting the German forces. Many Jewish refugees also fled there for protection. They hid together in handmade underground bunkers in the woods, under the shadow of the mountains.

    In the fall of 1942, the Nazis found Fred’s wife and children in hiding and transported them to Auschwitz concentration camp where they were killed. In 1943, Fred’s 77 year old father, Nathan and other Jewish prisoners were forced to dig a mass grave and then executed. All of Fred’s family that remained or returned to Kraków were caught and killed with the exception of two sisters-in-law and three nieces. Overall 72 of Fred’s close and extended family were killed in the Holocaust.

    Fred remained in the Tatra Mountains until Poland was liberated in 1945. After the war he suffered from kidney, bladder, and gall bladder stones, and heart trouble because of what he endured. It took ten years and three surgeries for Fred to regain his health. In 1947, Fred married Barbara Eugenia Urbach (1907-1995), a friend of his younger sister and a fellow survivor. She managed to live in hiding as an Irish Catholic with fake identity papers she bought. Fred and Barbara left Poland in 1950, and moved to Tel Aviv, Israel, for five years. In 1955, they immigrated to the United States aboard the SS Queen Mary, settled in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Americanized their names. After coming to the U.S. Fred continued to work as a jeweler and took up painting. He created scenes from his prewar life in Kraków and images of the Holocaust. Fred exhibited his paintings at the University of Judaism, shared his experiences with students at the University of Albuquerque, and gave interviews with news stations.

    Physical Details

    Object Type
    Painting (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    Watercolor painting of a concentration camp scene on rectangular, off-white, medium weight paper. The image depicts a group of approximately 50 men, women, and children, huddled together primarily in the left foreground and surrounded by men in military gear holding bayonets. One of the soldiers at the center front is holding a dog on a leash. To the right is a man in a wheelchair. The people are being marched in a line towards a group of buildings in the background. There is a series of five buildings to the left and three to the right, one with a large, billowing chimney and another with writing on the side. Between the buildings is an expanse of tall, barbed wire fencing. The image is sketched in pencil and painted over with a monochromatic brown that is shaded darker in the foreground and lighter in the background. There is a pencil line around the top and right edges of the painting. The painting is adhered to a larger, cream colored backing paper leaving an approximately 1 inch margin around the image. In each corner, on the reverse of the backing paper, is a small rectangular piece of masking tape and a strip of masking tape runs along the full width of the top edge. The backing paper is brittle and discolored with a tear at the lower right and smudges on the back. There is a small hole in each corner of the primary support.
    overall: Height: 18.000 inches (45.72 cm) | Width: 24.375 inches (61.913 cm)
    pictorial area: Height: 15.875 inches (40.323 cm) | Width: 21.875 inches (55.563 cm)
    overall : paper, paint, pencil, tape

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    No restrictions on access
    Conditions on Use
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    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The painting was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2018 by Sondra Rosenthal Eastham.
    Record last modified:
    2022-07-28 18:31:13
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