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Holocaust Survivor Harnesses the Dark and the Light

Tova Berlinski (Photo: Israel Museum)

Before Auschwitz became a name associated with the more than one million Jews murdered there during the Holocaust, it was the birthplace of Tova Berlinski. Now 102, this Israeli artist is featured in this profile by the New York Times' Isabel Kershner:

She painted gray and black flowers, their innate beauty discernible only through hints of light.

Her Israeli landscapes are stark and desolate, punctuated by towering cypress trees and heavy rocks. Minimalist still lifes depict a pair of empty chairs. In portraits, family members appear with blurred and vanishing features or faces that fade into geometric patterns because, the artist said, “they are all gone,” murdered in the Holocaust.

The artist, Tova Berlinski, was born in 1915 in the Polish town of Oswiecim, better known by its German name — Auschwitz. Newly married, she and her husband left for what was then known as Palestine in 1938, a year before the Germans conquered Oswiecim and began building the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and extermination camp on the edge of town.

Much of her work evokes the loss and pain of a lifetime that spans a century — including the Nazi decimation of European Jewry in World War II and the foundation of modern Israel, which she came to help build and where she made her home...

Tags: Israelis You Should Know

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