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Miniature book of sketches made by camp prisoners for Dr. Arthur Kessler

Object | Accession Number: 2019.183.3

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    Miniature book of sketches made by camp prisoners for Dr. Arthur Kessler

    Overview

    Brief Narrative
    Miniature, handmade sketchbook of ink and watercolor sketches created by several prisoners in Vapniarka concentration camp and gifted to Dr. Arthur Kessler in 1943. The images depict scenes of daily prisoner life in the concentration camp. Dr. Kessler was a fellow inmate, and was given “The Little Book” by the prisoners, many of whom he treated while managing a 30-person medical department at the camp. In late 1942, he treated fellow prisoners who had gone on a hunger strike because of their reactions, including paralysis, to eating a toxic fodder pea, Lathyrus sativus. Following the war, Dr. Kessler gave lectures and published articles about these reactions, and was considered a leader in the field of Lathyrism. He also continued to treat the victims of Vapniarka who survived and immigrated to Israel without compensation.
    Date
    creation:  1943
    Geography
    depiction: Vapni︠a︡rka (Vinnyt︠s︡ʹka oblastʹ, Ukraine)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of David Kessler
    Markings
    front cover, shaped metal wire, cursive : (illegible text) [Honorary doctorate from the University of Vapniarka]
    Contributor
    Subject: Arthur Kessler
    Owner: Arthur Kessler
    Biography
    Arthur Kessler (1903-2000) was born on October 11, 1903 in Gewitsch, Moravia (Jevíčko, Czech Republic) to David (1866-1945) and Anna (née Gottfried, 1875-1947) Kessler. He had three brothers: Joseph (b. 1902), Julius, and Leo. The family moved to Czernowitz (Chernivtsi, Ukraine) in 1913 where David worked as a theology professor and rabbi. During World War I the family moved back to Gewitsch, but returned after the war to what was now part of Romania. Arthur studied medicine and graduated from the University of Vienna in 1929. He served as a doctor in the Romanian army from 1930-1933. He married Chaia Schulsinger (b. 1911) on May 6, 1937 in Czernowitz. Their first child, Vera, was born in 1940.

    After the Russians occupied Czernowitz in June 1940, Arthur became the manager of the hospital. After the Germans reestablished Romanian rule in the city in July 1941, Arthur was arrested as a Communist/Soviet agent and imprisoned from December 30, 1941 to February 7, 1942. He was released after paying a bribe. In September of that year, Arthur was rounded up and deported to the Vapniarka concentration camp in Transnistria, where he was both a prisoner and head doctor of a 30-person medical department. In late 1942, he treated the prisoners who had gone on a hunger strike because of reactions that they had to eating a toxic fodder pea (lathyrism). Arthur and other prisoners were transferred out of Vapniarka and sent to the ghetto in Olgopol on May 1, 1943.

    A year later he escaped, returned to Romania, and reunited with his wife Chaia and their daughter, Vera. Chaia and Vera were blond and passed as Aryans. They had survived by going to Bucharest and moving from one place to another. The Kessler family went to Palestine in 1944 where Arthur published several articles on lathyrism and became the director of the Allergy Department of the Zamenhof Clinic in Tel Aviv. His son David was born in 1948. Arthur continued to give lectures and publish articles, and was considered a leader in the field of lathyrism. He also continued to treat the victims of Vapniarka who survived and immigrated to Israel without compensation.

    Arthur’s parents survived the war in Czernowitz. All three of his brothers survived the Holocaust. Joseph immigrated to Peru after the war, Julius immigrated to the United States after the war, and Leo died in Bucharest.

    Physical Details

    Language
    Romanian
    Classification
    Art
    Object Type
    Drawing (lcsh)
    Genre/Form
    Sketches.
    Physical Description
    Handmade, miniature book with a leather cover containing 42 individual drawings in graphite, ink, and watercolor on tan paper. The images depict scenes of daily prisoner life in a concentration camp. There is a title page dedicated to Dr. Kessler in purple ink, along with several pages of text in a combination of graphite and several colors of ink. The book consists of several paper folios sewn together to create a block containing 43 pages with rounded corners. The block is secured within the thin, paperboard cover by pastedowns at the front and back. The cover is covered with brown leather, and was originally overlaid with a clear, plastic film, possibly cellulose nitrate, set into a border around the edges. Shaped, metal wire text, possibly copper-alloy, is adhered to the front cover. A narrow, U-shaped metal pin is attached to the spine by a twisted, two-tone length of brown thread. The surface of the leather is cracked and worn with small losses, and there is corrosion along the wire text. The film is now mostly missing, with several remnants in the lower right corner.
    Dimensions
    overall: Height: 1.130 inches (2.87 cm) | Depth: 0.500 inches (1.27 cm)
    Materials
    overall : leather, paper, metal, thread, ink, watercolor, graphite pencil, plastic, adhesive

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Provenance
    The sketch book was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2019 by David Kessler, the son of Dr. Arthur Kessler.
    Record last modified:
    2023-03-31 09:35:23
    This page:
    https:​/​/collections.ushmm.org​/search​/catalog​/irn706958

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