Sunday Evening Art Gallery — Zinovii Tolkatchev

Zinovii Shenderovich Tolkatchev (1903-1977) was born in the town of Shchedrin in Belarus.

In 1928, Tolkatchev studied art in Kiev and in 1929 held an exhibition on the death of Lenin.  In the thirties, he illustrated books, including works by Gorky and Sholem Aleichem, and exhibited the series, “The Shtetl”.

From 1941-1945, he served as an official artist in the Red Army. In the summer of 1944 he was attached to the Soviet forces at the front after the liberation of Majdanek, and afterwards to the forces liberating Auschwitz.

Horrified by what he witnessed, Tolkatchev spent over a month painting scenes from within the newly liberated death camp.These drawings were supposed to depict the moment of liberation from the point of view of the liberator: the excitement and happiness of the prisoners receiving the Red Army soldiers as saviors.

Shocked by the actual sights he witnessed, he often depicted Jesus as an actual camp inmate, wearing a striped uniform marked by every possible defamation sign – the Jewish yellow star, the red triangle of political prisoners, and the individual prison number, the numerical tattoo on his lower arm can also be seen.
His Majdanek paintings became one of the earliest artistic series to publicly document the Nazi death camps.Tolkatchev accompanied the Nazi Crimes Investigation Commission to Auschwitz, arriving within hours of the camp’s liberation by the Soviet Army on January 27, 1945.Using only materials immediately available, Tolkatchev made many of his drawings in pencil and on Nazi stationary taken from the commandant’s office.Looking back on his work, Tolkatchev wrote, “I did what I had to do; I couldn’t refrain from doing it. My heart commanded, my conscience demanded.”

More of Zinovii Tolkatchev‘s inspirational work can be found at  https://www.yadvashem.org/yv/en/exhibitions/art-liberation/tolkatchev.asp.

 

The Contrast of Life

Good Evening Friends!

An escape for the weekend with family and friends was just the fresh start I needed. But what good is a blog if there’s not a bit of something to talk about? To contemplate?

On one hand….

I had the best time on my escape ski weekend with family and friends. I don’t ski, but I am out there with my kids and grandkids helping them to learn, sitting around the fire drinking wine and talking and telling stories, playing card games, and competing in our annual cooking competition. All in all it’s lots of love and lots of memories and lots of good feelings.

On the other hand…

Last night I watched the movie “A Bridge Too Far” about Operation Market Garden in the Netherlands during World War II. It wasn’t my choice, as I am not a fan of war movies, but my significant other had never seen it and so it went.

On the one hand….

Over the weekend I helped my grandson learn to ski a little, then watched him go tubing for the first time. The look of joy and anticipation and fear all mingled to make him overly adorable and huggable.

On the other hand…

The movie was about the failed attempt of Allied Forces to secure several bridges in the Netherlands to prevent the Germans from overtaking the country.

On the one hand….

My weekend was filled with laughter, love, and a sense of togetherness we have shared at the same event for over 15 years. It was great.

On the other hand….

I had never heard of this failed attempt to secure these bridges until this movie. Not so great.

On the one hand….

It was a weekend of renewal, of camaraderie, and of watching our children and grandchildren grow closer.

On the other hand….

According to Wikipedia, there were approximately 500 Dutch civilian causalities, 11,800-13,200 Second Army and I Airborne Corps casualties, 3,500-3,900 XVIII Airborne Corps casualties, and 15,000-17,200 German casualties from this siege. 30,000+ to 34,800 lives lost in one attempt.

On the other hand….

The biggest conflict we had this weekend is when “bad grandma Claudia” stopped the two-year-old’s chip supply to make her wait until dinner. Said grandchild flopped on the floor and cried.

On the other hand….

Two groups of human beings shot and bombed and maimed each other so that one person could have extreme power over others.

How do you reconcile one with the other?

I know my dad suffered from PSTD from World War II. He never talked about it to us kids, but you could just see in his reminiscences, in his eyes and his nightmares. There are others who to this day can only say they did what they had to do for their country.

In that one attempt alone thirty thousand people lost their lives, their futures.

How can you compare that to reading a book to a grandchild? To feeding each other chips or a heart-felt hug from your grown up kids?

How can you compare the beauty of life to the tragedy of war and death?

I didn’t write this blog to debate the merits of war and peace, nor the cosmic meaning of life and death.

But like tornadoes, how can such terrible situations hit one family and skip over the next two and land on the fourth? How can people follow mindless – or should I say mindFUL – leaders who insist on the annihilation of entire civilizations? Entire nationalities or religions or classes of people?

After all is said and done, how can the inhabitants of Earth not stop the mindless repetitive destruction of civilizations over and over again for the mere thrill of domination?

Ha… look at me. I should have taken a humanities course or something.

I guess that once in a while I feel guilty being so happy when others were never given that chance.