To many, the paintings of Samuel Bak represent the Holocaust. Not only are they beautifully painted in an Old Master style, but their images of Holocaust devastation and tragedy are moving and unforgettable. Many of us are familiar with the photograph of a young boy in the Warsaw Ghetto, arms raised in surrender— his innocence violated by a German SS pointing a gun at him. Although this particular child happened to survive, Bak uses his image in a series of paintings to represent all the children of the Shoah, most of whom perished. Cynthia Ozick’s comments on Bak’s paintings of the boy in variations of the theme and settings, but always with his hands up, are so apt that I usurp them here in a partial quotation: “…Never, never, never was pity so twinned with outrage, or visionary image-making so united with unforgiving historical fact…In Bak’s work there is absolute knowledge; I think he must understand that his eye and his hand are anointed.” List of Bak exhibits, galleries, museums and films.
Marcia W. Posner, Ph.D., of the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County, is the library and program director. An author and playwright herself, she loves reviewing for JBW and reading all the other reviews and articles in this marvelous periodical.