Three Jewish prisoners jumping from burning buildings during the Warsaw Ghetto uprising
The drawing was inspired by five different photos taken by one or more German soldiers recording the destruction of the ghetto under the command of German SS-Major General Juergen Stroop. These photos can be seen in The Jewish Quarter is No More! The Stroop Report (Pantheon, NY ’79) and other books.
His daily reports to Berlin on the progress of his genocidal military campaign against the 50,000 or so Jews still alive in the ghetto in April – May 1943 included photographs and statistical reports on the numbers of German soldiers and their allies killed or injured, and the number of “Jews and bandits” killed or captured, his words to describe the heroic fighters who fought back against their oppressors.
The woman (center figure), whose wings are formed by negative (white) space survived the jump, was captured by German soldiers and eventually murdered in a concentration-death camp.
At the time I worked on the drawing, it presented me with one overriding aesthetic concern: How much background should I draw? At one point I contemplated drawing in all the windows and bricks of the buildings behind the two men and the woman. I eventually chose a mix of drawn image and white space – to evoke a feeling – –
After the war
After the war, the old Jewish Quarter of Warsaw was not rebuilt as it had been. When I visited Warsaw in 1984 and 1985 and walked around the plaza where The Warsaw Ghetto Fighters Monument stands, created by the sculptor Natan Rapaport, I had no idea at the time that underneath the pavement there as well as in nearby streets – now the site of large concrete apartment buildings – lie the remains of thousands of Jews who died during the fighting of the April-May Uprising.
Their bones are unconsecrated and unburied according to customs of Jewish law concerning the dead.
Stroop was convicted of war crimes by a U.S. Military Court in Dachau, Germany in 1947 and sentenced to death for executing captured U.S. airmen, but the sentence wasn’t carried out. Later he was sent to Poland where he was tried for war crimes. He was convicted and hung in 1951.
Art © A K Segan