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The Holocaust in the Artworks of Second Generation Israeli Artists
A new book (in Hebrew) by Dr. Batya Brutin

Research carried out during the past two decades indicates that the Holocaust has influenced visual art of the Holocaust period and thereafter. Artists that experienced the atrocity of the Holocaust responded to the trauma, described the horrors and expressed their pain. Holocaust-related art has not ended; the Holocaust is continuing to manifest itself in the art of the children of the survivors who are known as the "Second Generation." Members of the Second Generation imbibed a traumatic atmosphere of death and loss, which many of them have internalized. With the passing of time, it has become a central element of their identity and has aroused in them a desperate need to cope with its problems.

 The Holocaust in the Artworks of Second Generation Israeli Artists

This research focuses specifically on Second Generation Israeli artists, since the place occupied by the Holocaust in the collective Israeli experience and culture differs from that in other countries and consequently provokes reactions, which are unique to local Israeli artists. The research deals with topics common to a number of artists, and discusses their artistic responses while preserving the special nature of each one.

On the one hand, the artists of the Second Generation are continuing along the route taken by artists of the Holocaust period with respect to subjects, images and style such as, descriptions of the dead, the corpses, the sacrifice of Isaac and the number on the arm. On the other hand, they are creating their own images and style, which respond to the subjects, questions and problems preoccupying their generation.

Life in a burdensome atmosphere of the loss of family members who died in the Holocaust, in an atmosphere where those dead continue to exist, in most cases under a mist of silence and mystery, has brought Second Generation artists to deal with these subjects in their works. They portrayed the different ways in which the dead appear in their inner world. A description of ghostly lost souls of dead family members, a description of the images of the dead, which are found in their inner world in shadowy form, the eye motif as a representation of the image of the dead which continued to exist in the Second Generation's inner world and accompanied them throughout their lives.

A recurring subject in the Second Generation's inner world, which is expressed in their works, is the number on their parentsí arm, the burning reminder of the humiliation and loss of identity which was part of their experience during the Holocaust. For the "Second Generation" this was a fact of life into which they were born, the number seared into their minds, and as a result, appears in their works, sometimes directly and sometimes indirectly.

Some Second Generation artists have been exposed to their parentsí prisoner uniform at a mature stage of life, by accident; others have lived in its shadow because it hung on the wall of the house and became a part of their lives, and some have never seen their parentsí uniform but were exposed to it through their parents' stories. They all were deeply influenced by it and depicted it in their artworks. Both the symbolic depictions of the striped uniforms and the personal-emotional depictions emphasize the anonymity of the camp prisoners. In addition, timeless depictions have allowed artists to convey a message of warning that the Holocaust could happen again.

Second Generation artists have expressed compassion towards Holocaust victims for facing hard situations of distress, suppression, hunger and death due to the imprisonment in the ghettoes and camps.

Holocaust survivors saw in their children a replacement and a compensation for dead family members, and many of them named their children after the dead, wishing that they could be a replacement for those they had lost. In many Holocaust survivors' families, one of the children was chosen to stand as a "memory candle" for dead family members and as a result, they act as a link between the lost past, present and future of their parents and themselves. Many Holocaust survivors have passed along to the Second Generation a hidden message asking them to experience the Holocaust and revive it for them, this is why we have seen Second Generation artists describe themselves in their works as if they are taking part in the events their parents experienced in the Holocaust. In this way they are trying to discover how they would have acted if they had been "there."

A different group of artists preferred to place themselves in a position of power and control, while expressing their empathy towards the victims. Their artwork reflects this position, and their message is that everyone can be both a victim and an aggressor at the same time.

Through the works of Second Generation artists, we are exposed to a wide variety of subjects and questions, which preoccupy them, and we see different and diverse ways of expressing what was happening in their Holocaust-affected inner world.

The book has 350 pages, with footnotes and bibliographical lists, and 202 photographs in color. The book is broken down into the following chapters:

"Second Generation" in research
"Second Generation" in Israeli Art
On the book and its chapters

Chapter One: Living in the Shadow of Loss
Lost Souls

Chapter Two: In the Shadow of Evidence: The Number on the Arm and the Striped Uniform
The Number on the Arm--An Everlasting Scar?
The Striped Uniform

Chapter Three: Relics from the Memorial Sites and Photographs from the Holocaust
Relics from the Memorial Sites
Photographs from the Ghettos and the Camps
Photographs of the Dead

Chapter Four: Identification with the Victims
Named after the Dead
Memorial Candles
If I Were There
Self-Portrait as a Victim

Chapter Five: Personal Stories
The Presence of Absence
Memory and forgetfulness

Chapter Six: Between Victim and Aggressor
The Duality as Part of Israeli Identity
Conciliation between the Victim and the Aggressor
Identification with the Aggressor

Conclusions: Over but Not Done with


List of Illustrations


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