Sometime in the 1920s, an unknown Hungarian artist painted two portraits of a Jewish family in Cluj, in what is now Romania. Several years later, that family was rounded up and sent to a Nazi concentration camp.
One son, who survived the war in hiding, went back to his house after the war, only to find a gentile family living there and all his family's things gone. Only the portraits remained.
According to Yehudit Shendar, the senior art curator at Yad Vashem, the new residents of the house "gave the son the two portraits. After all, they didn't need to live in a home with pictures hanging that reminded them of the Jewish neighbors they'd sent to their deaths."
These two pictures were among the record 312 works of art that were added to Yad Vashem's art collection this year. That's more than twice the number of works the museum usually receives in a typical year.
"We launched the Picking up the Pieces project on Holocaust Remembrance Day last year, which was our open invitation to help us collect and preserve personal items related to the Holocaust," said Shendar. "I was certain that we'd get all kinds of objects, documents or photographs, but I never imagined that we would receive so many items that can be considered art." Yad Vashem now has nearly 10,000 works in its collection.
Picking up the Pieces also led to Yad Vashem receiving several works by Chaim Orison, a post-Impressionist painter of note from Slonim, Poland, who was murdered in the Bialystok ghetto in 1943. Several people who had been in possession of his paintings heard about the project and donated them. They had received the paintings from Orison's wife Naomi, who survived the war and found her late husband's works in her attic.
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