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  • Writer's pictureWendell Maxey

Artwork Of Holocaust Survivor Emil Jacoby Reminds Us To "Never Forget"

Nearly 24 years after his passing, the artwork of Holocaust survivor Emil Jacoby continues to serve as a timely reminder why we should "never forget".

All a person has to do is spend a matter of seconds soaking in the dim imagery of Emil's watercolor painting entitled, "Memories", (featured above) to grasp the reality of haunting Holocaust prisoners. Emil knew this world all too well.

Born in 1923 in Bushtina, Czechoslovakia (now part of Ukraine), Emil left home in 1939 to travel to Budapest, Hungary. It was there that Jacoby was conscripted into a Nazi labor camp in March 1944 and was the only survivor from his family after the liberation from Upper Austria's Mauthausen concentration camp in May 1945.

It was an impactful time of unforgettable memories that stayed with him the rest of his life and went on to serve as the inspiration of his paintings, sketches, and renderings.

Fluent in eight different languages, Emil survived by finding factory work in Czechoslovakia. He immigrated to Israel in 1949, married Betty Bercu and was one of the founders of the modern city of Beth Shemesh. He also fought in the Six-Day War, a brief war that took place between June 5–10 in1967 and was the third of the Arab-Israeli wars. In 1969 Emil and his family immigrated to America, residing first in Long Island, then Brooklyn, and finally Grasmere in Staten Island in 1982. He dedicated his life to using his art, performances, and talks of survival to tell the story of the Holocaust, while encouraging people to ask themselves how such a thing could happen?

“I have to do something for their memory,” Emil Jacoby once said about what inspired his work as an artist.

Working primarily in charcoal, pen, and ink, watercolor and oil, Emil's exhibits during his life were featured throughout Staten Island and revealed the power and grace of his collected artist visions from the 1930s through the late 1990s. The artwork represents four themes: Portraits, The Shtetel – Jewish life in Europe, Israel, and Nature. Yet it's his art that focuses on the Holocaust that ranges from haunting to compelling.

In 1998, Emil passed away but he is not soon forgotten.

“We wanted the process of remembrance and the process of sharing with the families and the children to keep their life glowing and keep their memories alive,” said Rachel Borenstein, President of the Staten Island Holocaust Center.

Today, Emil Jacoby’s legacy and artwork continues to live on thanks to the Staten Island Holocaust Center through his extensive archive and collection. Visually, Emil's art has jumped off of the page and taken on a life of its own by furthering dialogue about the Holocaust and bridging the past with the present.

Learn More About Emil Jacoby

The Story of Emil Jacoby (Wagner College)

An Interview with Emil Jacoby (USC Shoah Foundation)

Connect with the Staten Island Holocaust Center (SIHC) on Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Help show your support of the Staten Island Holocaust Center (SIHC) by making a tax-deductible donation today!



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