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The Art Fund Helps Buy Key Works in Imperial War Museum's New Exhibition
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LONDON.- Memories of the Holocaust, seven poignant oil paintings by Roman Halter, have been acquired by the Imperial War Museum with the help of The Art Fund, the UK ’s leading independent art charity. This new addition to the Museum’s permanent collection will be on display as part of the Museum’s exhibition ‘Unspeakable: The Artist as Witness to the Holocaust’ which opens today. The Art Fund provided a grant of £22,000 towards the £70,000 total cost of the paintings.

Halter, a Polish Jew who survived the Holocaust, painted these seven powerful paintings 25 years after World War II ended. Each painting re-calls his traumatic experiences of the suffering and loss he endured and observed under the German occupation. Barbed wire is shown binding the faces and bodies in pain, whilst merging Jewish identity with the atrocity that they were innocently involved in.

David Barrie, Director of The Art Fund, said: “These paintings are by a man who endured unthinkable atrocities under the Nazi regime. It is important that these powerful works will now be on public display at the Imperial War Museum , and we’re proud to have helped secure their purchase.”

In September 1939, when Roman Halter was just 12 years old, Hitler’s troops entered the north-western part of Poland . His home town of Chodecz was made an integral part of greater Germany , and the SS police took charge and began to ‘clear-out’ or murder Jewish people. By the following year, in autumn 1940, of the 800 Jews who originally lived in the town, just 360 were left. These dead included Halter’s father who died from starvation in the Jewish ghetto, and at the tender age of 13 Halter helped to bury him. Halter was then sent on to the Jewish ghetto in Lodz where he was forced to work in a metal factory for the Nazi regime. He then went via the Auschwitzz and Stutthof concentration camps, to work as slave labour in a munitions factory in Germany . By the age of 17 his entire family had also died.

At the end of the war Halter returned home to Chodecz, to discover that of the 800 Jews that had lived in his home town of before 1939 he was one of only four that had survived.

Halter eventually settled in Britain , and quite soon after his arrival in the country he started visiting the National Gallery, where he found windows into his own experiences, most notably in the images of the Crucifixion. The influence of these visits can be seen in the works from Memories of the Holocaust, especially in Shlomo, where Halter depicts his brother who was hanged by the Nazis for an act of compassion.

In May 2006, sixty-one years after the war ended, Roman Halter returned to Chodecz, in central Poland , and in January 2007 his book Roman’s Journey was published, a compelling memoir of his experiences.

Memories of the Holocaust will feature in the Imperial War Museum ’s forthcoming exhibition Unspeakable: The Artist as Witness to the Holocaust. Imperial War Museum London , 5 September 2008 – 31 August 2009.

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