Monday, 30 December, 2013

In light of our art competition for Holocaust Memorial Day 2014 Drawing Inspiration - we take a look at the life of Holocaust survivor and artist Roman Halter.

Roman Halter waited almost 30 years after the end of the Holocaust before giving up an architecture job to dedicate his life to art.  Drawing upon traumatic experiences in wartime Poland, he took to abstract painting and designing stained glass windows, allowing him to reflect on the specific and very personal horrors he endured during the Holocaust.

Among the subjects of Roman’s work was the tragic death of his half-brother Shlomo, who was hanged by his best friend in 1940 under the duress of Nazi occupiers.  Shlomo’s only ‘crime’ was that he had secured some extra bread for a group of hungry workers he was in charge of while building the Berlin-Pozen highway.  Although he wasn’t a witness to his half-brother’s death, he saw in the tale an allegory to Jesus and the painted image of his hanged body became an homage to the Renaissance-era depictions of the crucified Christ.

Religion manifests in other works of art by Roman, including Moses the Prophet, which depicts the prophet’s angry face looking down upon mothers and their children naked, being led to their death at a concentration camp.  One of Roman’s most moving pieces, however, is inspired by the bleak desperation he saw in a fellow prisoner at Auschwitz-Birkenau.  Man on the Electrified Barbed Wire is an image of defeat, depicting a man who was driven to throw himself on the camp’s encapsulating electric fence having had his children forcibly taken from him.

Yet Roman was determined to survive.  It was this instinct and some good luck along the way that helped him get to the end of the war, providing him with the opportunity to share his experiences with the rest of the world through art.

You can read more about Roman’s experience during the Holocaust in the testimony provided to us for the life stories section of our website.  Roman describes the Journeys he undertook, including surviving as a slave labourer and escaping a death march.

If you’re inspired by the work and life of Roman Halter and you want to try your hand at producing art to mark Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD), then get creative and submit an entry to our art competition, Drawing Inspiration.  We’re inviting you to explore the 2014 theme of Journeys through creating a drawing, painting or a piece of digital art.

The competition is open to everyone in three age categories, each with their own theme and online resources.  All entries must be received by 6pm on Sunday 12 January 2014. The winning entries will each receive a set of deluxe art materials, a National Art Pass and the have their work displayed at the UK Commemorative Event for Holocaust Memorial Day 2014 on 27 January.

Visit drawinginspiration.hmd.org.uk to find out more and get inspired.

Photo: Roman Halter ©The Holocaust Centre