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OBJECT OF THE MONTH – February 2007


Karel Fleischmann (22 February 1897, Klatovy – 24 October 1944, Auschwitz), Registration of People Waiting for Deportation, Terezín 1943
 
Washed pen and ink drawing on paper, 318 x 450 mm
signed and dated lower left and lower right: Terezín 1943 / KF 43
provenance: Jewish Museum in Prague acquisition from 1945
ŽMP 175.773

This drawing by the physician, poet and graphic artist Karel Fleischmann, who was born 110 years ago this month, dates from his period of internment in the Terezín ghetto. He was deported to Terezín from České Budějovice, where he ran a private dermatology practice before the war. He was also a founding member of the České Budějovice art group Linie [Line] (1931-1939) which, although now almost forgotten, played a major role in the Czech avant-garde of the inter-war years. The group’s framework provided its members with an important platform for formulating their own aesthetic expressions and views in response to what was going on in art and society. Fleischmann focused mainly on graphic art (of particular note are his series of linocuts and woodcuts) but also wrote poetry, short stories and theoretical essays. A number of his articles appeared in the group’s journal Linie, and his poetry and prints were published in the Linie book series. The activities of the group and the lives of its members were deeply affected by the Nazi occupation. For Fleischmann, who was of Jewish descent, the consequences were fatal. He was among a group of a thousand Jews from České Budějovice deported to the Terezín ghetto on 18 April 1942, where he worked as a physician and continued with his artwork. He kept a diary and wrote poetry but excelled mainly as an assiduous draftsman. His stylistically distinct drawings with their extraordinary flurries of lines captured the everyday reality of ghetto life, the brutalities of which were ever present for Fleischmann. On 23 October 1944 he was deported to the Auschwitz death camp, where he was murdered in the gas chambers a day later, along with his wife and sister. The collection of his work that was entrusted to the care of the Jewish Museum in Prague after the war, presents a unique and powerful testimony to life in the Terezín ghetto, the Shoah of Bohemian and Moravian Jewry and the tragic demise of the ideals of modernity.

 


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