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January 6, 2023 11:10 am

Documentary About Prolific Artist Killed in Auschwitz Makes World Premiere at New York Jewish Film Festival


avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

A self-portrait by Charlotte Salomon. Photo: Charlotte Salomon Foundation via Wikimedia Commons.

The 32nd annual New York Jewish Film Festival (NYJFF) opening next week will feature the world premiere of a new documentary that highlights thousands of paintings created by a young Jewish German artist before she was killed in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp at the age of 26.

Charlotte Salomon: Life and the Maiden details the life and impressive amount of roughly 1,300 paintings that Salomon created before her deportation to Auschwitz.

“Narrated as though from her own voice and featuring a cascade of her images, the film delves into her youth in Berlin, her escape to the south of France after the rise of the Nazis, her love affair with a music teacher, and the creative explosion that resulted in her brilliant body of multimedia work — ahead-of-their-time creations mixing gouache, text, and music,” NYJFF said in its synopsis of the film.

The documentary, which is in French with English subtitles, will be screened at the New York Jewish Film Festival on Jan. 18 and will include a Q&A with the documentary’s co-directors, Delphine and Muriel Coulin. The film festival will run virtually and in-person from Jan. 12-23 at the Walter Reade Theater in New York City.

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Salomon was born in 1917 in Germany. In 1939, after Kristallnacht, she left her home country and moved to France to live with her grandparents, who fled Germany earlier when the Nazis took power, according to Yad Vashem. In the spring of 1943, two years after the Nazi occupation of France, Nazi official Alois Bruner organized the deportation of 1,800 Jews from Nice, and Charlotte was taken with her husband and sent to a detention camp for French Jews and then to Auschwitz. Upon their arrival in the concentration camp, Salomon, who was then 26 years old and five months pregnant, was sent to the gas chambers, where she was killed.

Her husband, Alexander Nagler, was sent to forced labor and survived until early 1944 while her parents survived the war by hiding in The Netherlands.

Charlotte’s paintings were given to a local doctor in Nice to keep safe and after the war Salomon’s parents reclaimed her collection of artwork. They lated donated her archive to the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam.

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