Eingang: Visionen...

When painting, I do not wonder whether what I am doing is good or bad. All I want is to catch, to capture with my hands the indescribable fear and the undeserved lot of millions of Jews and other prisoners, which I have witnessed with my own eyes.

(Adolf Frankl)

The way my visions became paintings
From tape-recorded and live narratives
by Adolf Frankl, an Auschwitz-Birkenau survivor,
tattoo number B 14395

I distribute paint on the canvas with my fingers, brush and palette knife, without any plan or model to follow. I am so absorbed in my work that I daub paint over my face, hair, clothes and shoes, sometimes I am so distracted I even put the brush into my mouth.

Out of a feeling of both RAGE AND JOY I make patches of color either creating harmony or havoc, largely subconsciously. After some hours, I need to lie down, I am exhausted. I get some sleep, then I smoke and think of the past, of my youth, of women and also of the dreadful images from the camp. The ghosts crawl out of the darkness. I cannot bear it any longer. I run to a cafe, the painting pursuing me and ordering me to continue my work until it is finished.

In the evening, when everyone else is asleep, I get the canvas out and from my bed I observe the painting for hours. First with my hand, then with one eye, then with a mirror I look for a solution, for a way to explain to others the awful thoughts that rage behind my eyes. There, through my shut eyes, I see the Jewish girls, the flowers of Zion, standing at the barbed wire fence of the camp, like they did when I came to Birkenau1: legs apart, or else they would tumble down, arms hanging at their sides, bent forward.
They stared at me like animals. Those eyes – I cannot forget them!

"You can't take this any longer than three or four weeks, then you will evaporate through the chimney, so don't you worry!" said my acquaintance from Trenčin in Slovakia, by the name of Suess. He was a "Kapo", which denounced a camp inmate assigned by the SS as overseer. He wore handsome high shoes with laces.

The painting I have begun calls me back. Gradually, the patches of color are materializing into faces, sometimes animals - vague creatures, half beast, half man - and my memories return with renewed force and clarity. A huge black bearded man takes shape in my mind, the Rabbi Goldstein, an orthodox, incorruptible man, true to his principles, who in Bratislava (Pressburg) used to proudly walk up the Jewish street to the synagogue to deliver his sermon on Sabbath. In the Sereď concentration camp I saw him beardless, a tiny gaunt face with eyes dilated from mortal fear.

I can see the faces now, clearly, and I recognize Herbert, the German foreman from the Birkenau women's camp weaving department. He had been a mariner before. He called me "Wolf" (wolf) and sometimes "Fuchs" (fox).

He confided to me that the food we got contained bromine2, and from time to time supplied me with unmixed food. Once a woman I knew who worked in the camp kitchen for the SS passed on to me a tiny piece of salad. Unfortunately, a female SS-warden caught sight of this and whipped me. She whistled to fetch Herbert. He said "This is a green one!3" He hit me, knocked me down, then danced over my body. Next day, I asked him "Herbert, why did you beat me? Haven't you recognized me?" He said "No, wolf, I did not recognize you".

In Birkenau, I also see the lawyer from Bratislava's Sedlárska street. Once he was an ambitious, pushy person, a star of yesterday. Before the onset of persecution he ran a large thriving office, his waiting room always full of clients. I still recollect him coming out from the "Mexiko-Kommando4", his head close-cropped, his face black from dirt, his glasses broken. In the department "Mexiko-Kommando" the prisoners were forced, among others, to dismount damaged barracks, with nothing but bare hands and in bitter coldness.
By the roll-call next morning at dawn he was finished – dead.

I also watch myself in Birkenau exchanging bread for cigarettes and trying to find butts in the darkness in the barrack. I get caught by a "Kapo", a former policeman. He forces me to bend over the stove which ran through the whole length of the barrack and hits my bare behind with his rod ten times. I scream with pain, so loud, you could hear it in Cracow – unendurable pain! And there again, rats, ugly fat rats, the only creatures with always something proper to eat! Up to these days I have been haunted by the stench of burnt human flesh and hair, and I still see the smoke escaping from the chimneys of the incinerators. I will never shake it off, I feel myself drowning in this thick stench.

I return to the canvas. The colors and the blurred contours of the faces are starting to take shape. I like the bright, garish colors. Like fire they should shine! The depth effect of the colors makes up the basis of my works. These are the origins of my paintings. I admire Chagall. We have but one thing in common: The powerful colors dominate the paintings. However, because of my own experience of the past, my pictures are full of mourning. They contain many things I cannot explain. When painting, I do not pay any attention to whether what I am doing is good or bad. Out of the patches of color my VISIONS form themselves – with many interruptions, improvements, without my paying any heed to perspectives, dimensions, phrases or directions.

Being an eye-witness, a sufferer myself, I want to conjure the indescribable fear and the undeserved fate of millions of Jews, of other fellow prisoners, of children and of those unborn. In such moments, I am seized with righteous anger and with memories carved indelibly on my mind, I seek to capture them with my hands, to express them in such a way that this tragedy become a warning testimony to future generations.

An art critic once told me that one of my paintings in which you can see dogs baring their teeth reminded him of motifs used by Chagall. However, my paintings reflect my own personal suffering and the ordeals that I personally endured …
This is Frankl – not Chagall!

With my paintings I have created
a memorial for all nations.

No one
shall ever experience
any such or similar disaster,
regardless of religion
or political conviction!

The Paintings
Zur Ausstellung / Click here!

(1) Birkenau (Brzezinka) constituted a part of the concentration and annihilation camp Auschwitz (Oświęcim). Therein, the prisoners lived like animals under barbarous conditions, most of them resembling walking skeletons rather than human beings. Adults, youngsters, children, even babies died a slow dog's death in the gas chambers, from medical experiments and poisonous shots, they were shot dead, hanged, slayed, consumed by fire, they died of frost, torture, hunger, slave labor, and all that while enduring catastrophic, unimaginable sanitary conditions. All this happened in a well prepared, premeditated, perfectly organized, bureaucratic, industrialized manner. In their hopelessness, many preferred suicide to the humiliations and mortifications. Auschwitz-Birkenau is the world's biggest cemetery.
(2) Bromine is known to suppress sex drive. It was added to the prisoners' food.
(3) "Grüner": This term was used for professional criminals, they wore badges in green colors. However, my father was none of them. The prisoners of Auschwitz-Birkenau and attached camps were tattooed on their left forearms with a number. Additionally, they had to wear marks on the left chest of their jackets and on the right pants legs, according to various categories.
(4) "Kommando Mexiko" was a notorious labor group in the camp part B III of Birkenau, thus nicknamed by the prisoners, probably because the way how those working there protected themselves with blankets against the bitter cold reminded them of Mexicans wrapping themselves into their ponchos. The camp part B III was named "Mexiko". It was not before the end of summer
1944 that they started to build it as the last section of Birkenau, but it never saw completion. It was meant to serve as a "storage and gateway" camp, ("Depot- und Durchgangslager-Juden"), for the planned transfers of Jews to forced labor activities in Germany. In this part of the camp the prisoners were treated with special cruelty, their jobs being extremely hard and mostly outdoor.


Die bei haGalil onLine und den angeschlossenen Domains veröffentlichten Texte spiegeln Meinungen und Kenntnisstand der jeweiligen Autoren.
Sie geben nicht unbedingt die Meinung der Herausgeber bzw. der Gesamtredaktion wieder.
haGalil onLine

haGalil - Postfach 900504 - D-81505 München
1995-2008 © haGalil onLine® bzw. den angeg. Rechteinhabern
haGalil onLine - Editorial
Munich - Tel Aviv - All Rights Reserved