Lost Childhood
Holocaust Child Survivors


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SAMUEL BAK - Icon of Loss

SAMUEL BAKWhile completing the 36 paintings, of a series in process that is based on the  well-known photo of the Jewish boy from the Warsaw Ghetto, I reflected on the countless millions of children that perish in man's senseless conflicts, wars and genocides -- past and present.
What an unacceptable abuse of the innocents, of the just ones! Then it occurred to me that there is an ancient Midrash that speaks of 36 just men, (in Hebrew lamed-vav tsadikim.) Suddenly it downed on me that lamed vav in that language also means: "teach about the six (millions. . .)!"

Samuel Bak, April 2008  

Icon of Loss 
It is a haunting photograph we know well: A child arrested between life and death. Frozen in time, his solemn, anxious face and adult-like gesture of surrender are incongruent with his knobby knees, oversized cap, and diminutive stature. The time: April – May, 1943. The place: the Warsaw ghetto. Terrified Jews, mostly women and children, are herded at S.S. gunpoint from their hiding place. Forefronted and firmly positioned on the photograph’s Golden Mean, the boy is isolated from family and community in a fearful solitude at the moment when his fate is sealed, his childhood ended. With hands held high, apprehended as if a dangerous criminal or revolutionary, he is the target of both gun and camera.

One of forty-nine photographs assembled into an album by Jürgen Stroop, the commandant charged with the Warsaw ghetto cleansing, the image was captioned: “Pulled from the bunker by force.” This heading, like others in the collection, depict the Jews as combatants, rebels, and traitors, and the Warsaw uprising as an act of war. The album, a report to and birthday present for Heinrich Himmler, was entitled: “THE JEWISH QUARTER OF WARSAW IS NO MORE.”

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