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Yad Vashem’s statement regarding the sketches by Bruno Schulz

Yad Vashem states that the sketches from the Drohobycz villa were removed with the full cooperation of the Drohobycz municipality.  They were in a state of severe deterioration, having been neglected for over 55 years and since their arrival in Jerusalem are undergoing a process of restoration and preservation. Bruno Schulz, a Jewish artist, was forced to illustrate the walls of the villa under duress, and was killed by an SS officer for the sole reason that he was a Jew.  As a victim of the Holocaust, we believe that housing the sketches at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority is fitting and proper.   Here the works will be preserved for generations and may be viewed by the millions of tourists from all over the world that visit Yad Vashem each year.

In February of this year, Polish and German media published the fact that wall sketches by Jewish author/artist Bruno Schulz, were found in the home of SS officer, Felix Landau, in the town of Drohobycz. During the Holocaust period, Landau took advantage of Schulz’s artistic talent and gave him, amongst other things, the task of covering walls of his house with illustrations. Schulz was killed by SS officer Guenther in November 1942.

After the publication of this story, Yad Vashem contacted the Drohobycz municipality requesting Schulz’s wall paintings from the apartment in the house.  In March 2001 Yad Vashem’s Ukrainian-speaking representative, Mark Shraberman, travelled to Drohobycz and met with the Mayor, Oleksy Radziyevsky, and Head of  Culture in the town, Mikola Michatz. Both Michatz and Radziyevsky expressed willingness to hand over Schulz’s sketches to Yad Vashem (to be exhibited in the new Historical Museum, which is currently under construction), to honor the memory of Bruno Schulz and to commemorate the horrors that took place in Drohobycz during the Holocaust (from approximately 15,000 Jews who lived in the town at the outbreak of WWII, only some 400 survived, and only a few of them are living in Drohobycz today).

Following Shraberman’s visit, contact was made a number of times between Shraberman and Michatz - during which Michatz stated that the municipality had checked out the matter and had found the apartment and the sketches to be under private ownership. He also stated that only the owners of the apartment would be able to hand over the sketches to Yad Vashem and it was up to Yad Vashem to pursue the matter. The removal of the “fragments” of sketches was conducted with the full co-operation of the Drohobycz municipality, and it was and still is clear to Yad Vashem that the Drohobycz municipality was aware of the laws in its own country. But despite this Yad Vashem’s representative asked the Drohobycz municipality if there was any need for a further check to be made with other parties, above and beyond that which had been carried out directly with the Drohobycz municipality. The answer given was that the Drohobycz municipality is responsible for all issues in its own town.

In May 2001, Shraberman and a team of two specialists in the field of restoration went to Drohobycz on behalf of Yad Vashem, and a meeting was arranged with the owner of the apartment by Michatz and Deputy Mayor, Taras Metyk. During his stay in Drohobycz Shraberman met the Mayor three times.

At the apartment the Yad Vashem restoration specialists found the sketches peeling off the walls and in a most neglected condition. The sketches found were only fragments and not one complete sketch, and Yad Vashem’s restoration experts saved the fragments from further decay even carrying out necessary restoration work on one of the fragments left behind in the apartment at the house.

The owner of the apartment, Mikola Kaluzhny consented to give Yad Vashem all but one of the sketches, pending his written confirmation and signature. During the negotiations it was agreed that Yad Vashem would not remove the fragment left behind in the apartment, and has no intention of returning in the future to remove it.

Throughout his stay in Drohobycz, the Yad Vashem representative, Shraberman, informed and cooperated with the town’s municipality, to the extent that the municipality even assisted in the provision of materials required for packing the sketches.

It must again be emphasized that Yad Vashem worked openly and with the full coordination of the local authorities. On completion of the task, Mayor Oleksy Radziyevsky, gave a letter to Yad Vashem in which he praised the cooperation between Yad Vashem and the town of Drohobycz, regarding the commemoration of the Holocaust and the perpetuation of the memory of Bruno Schulz.

As Bruno Schulz was a Jewish artist - forced to illustrate the walls of the home of a German SS officer with his sketches as a Jewish prisoner during the Holocaust, and killed by an SS officer purely because he was a Jew  - the correct and most suitable place to house the drawings he sketched during the Holocaust, is Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority in Jerusalem. Yad Vashem is not stating that all Bruno Schulz’s creations and heritage are the property of any specific country or institution, and dismisses attempts by any country to claim monopoly on an internationally acclaimed artist. Moreover it has never been checked in what way a major part of Schulz’s additional creations now in Poland reached there.  

Unfortunately it is a fact that from the around 3.5 million Jews who lived in Poland before the Shoah, today there are only a few thousand Jewish inhabitants. Despite the fact that today most of the Holocaust survivors live in Israel, the remnants of the vibrant Jewish life and the suffering both of the victims and the survivors are scattered all over Europe. Therefore Yad Vashem has the moral right to the remnants of those fragments sketched by Bruno Schulz.

If Polish officials or institutions had any interest, doubts or suggestions relating to the arrival of the sketches at Yad Vashem, the right thing would have been to contact Yad Vashem to discuss the issue. However Yad Vashem is of the opinion that if Poland feels that they have an interest in assets that they see as their own, a discussion can be initiated regarding assets -cultural and other - which are part of the Jewish legacy in general and the Holocaust-era in particular, and are spread throughout Poland.

Copyright ©2001 Yad Vashem The Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority