Holocaust survivor Tamara Deuel Q&A; what words of wisdom for our generation?

Tamara Deuel Holocaust Child survivorHolocaust Survivor Tamara Deuel

Questions and Answers With Students

INTERVIEWS 

View paintings by Tamara Deuel

My Story

I am one of the survivors of the hell in Europe. I went through the Holocaust as a child. I was born in Kovno, Lithuania and had a normal and beautiful childhood. The day when the first bomb fell on my town, my childhood came to an end.

My family tried to go to Russia but the Germans were faster than us and we returned to Vilna after innumerable frightening experiences. Within a short time we were placed in the Ghetto.

After two and a half years, the Vilna Ghetto was liquidated. My mother was murdered by the Germans the next day and my father was transported to a camp in Estonia and was murdered there.

My grandfather and grandmother who were a very important part of my life were murdered in the Ghetto in Kovno. My sister and I were sent to the concentration camp Kaiserwald in Latvia. Afterwards, we were transferred to a number of work camps, in which our only food consisted of several pieces of bread and a bowl of barely eatable soup in exchange for many hours of slave labor. I was in the camps for 18 months.

In this horrible era I did not stop hoping that everything would finish soon. This gave me the opportunity to hold on to the humanity inside of me. Only at the end of the war did I realize that the world of yesterday would never return – not my family and not my childhood, nothing.

Before the liberation, we were forced on a death march to the gas chambers. During the march many people were dying. Every moment was dangerous because the guards knew that we were all going to be murdered. I wanted to help those who were dying and ran from one to the other but there was not much I could do.

I felt desperate but an older woman came up to me and told me that I must not try to help but just continue walking. She said “Child, look upward in faith and forward in hope”. What she said has helped me ever since. We were passing through a small town in Poland just before the death camp and I heard someone who was watching us go by say that the Soviet (Red) Army was just a day or two away. When the guards were not looking, I pushed my sister out of the line of the march and when I was sure she was safe and the last houses of the town were coming up, I took the next opportunity to escape and was hidden by a Polish family for about 10 days until the Red Army came.

I am in Israel where I have been since 1945. I came to Israel because I wanted to help build a country for Jews where we would be free and there would be no hatred.
I came to Israel separately from my sister and passed through Rumania, where I was cured of TB. Several months later I came as part of the Youth Aliya. I fought in the war of liberation in one of the kibbutzim of Gush Etzion. We were captured by the Jordanian Army and released a month later.

I studied to finish high school at Mikveh Israel (מקוה ישראל; “Hope of Israel”) and continued to study in different schools, and I am continuing to studying until today. I managed to raised a family – a privilege for the few who had survived. I act like every other human being so as not to transfer my burden to my children, but the memories of the horrors accompany me day and night. I am learning to live with the heaviness in my heart.

I was never painting but started more than 20 years ago and have been painting, sculpting and writing poetry in remembrance ever since. I feel that by my art I am helping to transfer my experiences and feelings to others to help prevent this from ever happening again.

Every individual who survived that other world has a duty to leave documentation, art, music and personal stories behind so that future generations will not forget.
I hope that we will all live in a better world and that the horror of the Holocaust will not be repeated.

The war ended in 1945. For me, the Holocaust will never end.

Tamara Deuel Holocaust survivor painting

A preface to one student’s request:

I am usually not talking about my experiences.
I feel that it is a duty of every survivor to translate the tragedy to the world in different ways according to their ability. Apparently my way is not to talk and not to write but to paint, sculpt, and mention the tragedy in my poems. But, because your work in my opinion is sacred, please ask me specific questions and I will answer them as much as I can.

Answers by Tamara to questions asked by students

DURING AND AFTER THE WAR
As a child I lost everything, my parents, my friends, my childhood, the joy of feeling safe and having a sense of freedom without any worries, making plans for tomorrow and beyond, and the ability to have certainty in adults. For a while I lost my belief in all of that.
When the war was over I was still a child. I had some fears in the ghetto and the concentration camp. However, I knew I would stay alive I think mainly because of the safety and sureness that I had as a child. Even as a child I felt that I had control over my own life.

ESCAPING THE DEATH MARCH
Is it possible to mention what camps you were in and how many months/years you were held before the march? About escaping from the death march, we walked days and many kilometers surrounded by German soldiers. After a couple of days, in the early morning, we saw the last houses of the last town (in Germany? Where?) before the concentration camp (which one?) and I heard some people in the street saying that the Russian army was not far from this place – a question of a week or so. At a certain point the soldiers did not look in our direction and my sister and I escaped into a house of some Polish people who hid us for a week or so until the Red Army came and freed us.

MY BELIEFS
After I was released I started to build within myself a new belief system. I never lost my belief in myself because of my parents who gave me certainty and so much love.
The concern of others reaffirmed my sense of security and helped me continue with my life providing the basis in certain ways for my rebuilding of my belief in others and once again let life flow with and through me.

HELP FROM OTHERS
What helped me to go through this terrible period by myself, having lost almost all of my family, was an older woman on the death march when many people were dying and I was running from one to another trying to help them. She said “Child, look up with faith and forward with hope”. And I remember it to this day and it has helped me. We cannot change the past but we can help mold the present and by that change the future.

STARTING TO PAINT
I never painted as a child. I was playing piano and dancing. Painting was not in my mind. I do not know why but I started painting and sculpting about 20 years ago. When I am painting or sculpting I do not stop until I feel that all of the parts are complete. Then I stop for a while but I am not planning or thinking about continuance. When I am not creating I am afraid that I have nothing else to say. But then it comes back as though my soul needed to rest before any continuation.

MY INSPIRATION
I don’t believe in inspiration due to a place or an event. It comes from a certain place which causes us to express ourselves in specific ways through the abilities which we possess. What I do know is that it comes from a place I do not fully understand. I have always believed in the metaphysical world. I am sure of it.

There is a connection between the ethereal world and here although not everyone is aware of it or is simply afraid to believe. Thoughts and in fact our whole being come from the ethereal world to which we are connected. There are a lot of questions but there are not always answers. I do believe that the continuation of life is on the soul level.

The soul is the essence of life and never finishes. It is endless with the endless purpose of existence. Once I showed my painting to a boy who was about 7 or 8 years old. I left him alone to look at the paintings. Ten or fifteen minutes later, I talked to him and he said that he felt as if he was surrounded by souls, that they were very lifelike. As a child as well as now I believed that everything has a soul, even inanimate objects.

HEALING
I believe that we can heal ourselves spiritually and physically and we can ask for help in different ways.

PLANNING
One of the things which I can not change in myself is the concept of planning. I never plan anything in my life – even for the same day and certainly not for the day after.

PURPOSE 
Our being here is not only for egoistic purposes and to please ourselves. Everyone has a goal toward the existence of our planet. The more we are sensitive to this and think about the universal goal which each one of us has, we are helping the planet survive in a much more positive way. Our self destruction or self realization has an effect on the universe. For me there is no compromise. I am doing what I believe in with all of my heart and soul. If I am mistaken in the end, that is what had to happen at that time and I must learn from it.

CHANGES
We should be aware that we are all equal and think of all of the beauty which we have been given. We have been given everything for basic existence. We should be thankful for what we have received. Instead of increasing that which we have been given, we destroy it. We end up thinking only about our own personal needs. We should increase our awareness of others without thinking about differences and be ready to help each other and not destroy, hate, or attempt to accumulate what has been given to others.

HOPE
What gives me the greatest hope for the continuation of the planet in a much purer way is the children who are writing letters to me from all over the world asking questions, showing their pain and grief and promising not to allow evil to happen again.

LEARNING
We are here for learning. We are given lessons all of the time. The lessons we are learning while we are here are a part of the continuation of the existence of the soul in its broadening of the understanding of life making it richer and more meaningful.

The only choice we have is to learn and give to others, or to make life miserable for ourselves and for the environment – meaning for the world. I believe everything we are doing and everything we are saying has an influence not only on us and the people surrounding us but also influences the events of the world.

LOVE
My deepest belief is that nothing can be done without deep love, an attempt to understand, to respect, and have awareness and concern for everything both animate and inanimate for in the end it is all connected. Love is the most meaningful gift.

LEARNING
We are here for learning.

Finally, what words of wisdom would you give our generation?
Only understanding and the acceptance of all human beings around the world. All of us are equal and if some of us are weaker or need help, it is our duty to help them to be on the same level as all others, to live and achieve all that as human beings we are capable. We came to the world to help, not to humiliate each other. There is one God for everyone. Our duty here, and especially for youth, is to build, and create a better world. By that we can live in a world which was given to us of beauty and love.

Tamara Deuel Holocaust survivor painting
Painting by Tamara Deuel

Holocaust Survivor Tamara Deuel

Excerpts From Reply To Two Students

Excerpts from a letter written to two children writing a report on the Holocaust[/b] I will add several pieces of information and stories which are not on my site.
I was born in the 1930s.

Both my sister and I have remained in Israel since we came here. Several years ago my sister passed away. We both have families – children and grandchildren. I gave my children a normal life like everyone else here by not involving them in my past.

More than 20 years ago one day out of the blue I started painting and have continued every since. I had never painted as a young child. I do not feel that it is therapeutic. The importance of it is the transfer of my experiences and feelings in memorializing the Holocaust and the death of my parents, grandparents and the six million who were killed.
It is impossible to have good memories about what I went through in the Holocaust except for one incident which I remember.

It was when the women, who were captured together with me, cut a 3 cm piece from the meager bread (4 pieces a day) which each received per day and built a cake of it for me on my birthday. This showed the humanity and the caring of those who had been together with me.

We worked in a factory as slaves. My head was shaved, and during the winter I was wearing only a thin dress and a cloth jacket in the freezing cold. Once, I looked out the back of the truck which took us to the factory, at all of the children my age going to school, running, playing, laughing, throwing snow balls and I could not understand why it was that I was so different.

I feel that it is a duty I have as a survivor to memorialize the Holocaust. It is the best way for me to transfer my feelings and experiences, and perhaps the only way I can because I do not talk about this experience. Every survivor must leave behind a story of what happened and this is my way.

Despite everything, I am very optimistic and continuing and not reliving the past, although the past is the basis of my life. I enjoy many things that the positive world is giving. Every day we are waking up in the morning to a new day, new beliefs, new hopes and opportunities. We never know what to expect with every new day but the hope and the desire gives us a new challenge and by that we can experience the most beautiful aspects of life.

I hope that the tragedies that happened and continue to happen due to the blindness of hatred can make people sit down for a while, think and ask themselves the question why and find the answer. It is a sin to discriminate. God created all of us equal. The beauty and love in the world was given to everyone, should caress everyone and cause joy and not suffering.

I wish you success on your report.

Tamara Deuel Holocaust survivor painting

Tamara’s Advice To Youth

Dear Kamryn,
Thank you very much for your words to me

.
I do not attempt to preach but if I can give you my humble
opinion and advice which is truthful and comes straight from my heart. I have been working on myself all these years and I do not hate anyone even those who killed my family.

It is important to stop hatred.

Do not make any difference between people. There is no difference.
All people are one in the eyes of God.
Be tolerant of others.

Do not belittle the beliefs of others.
Learn from history about injustice and evil and know that history can repeat itself.
Take an example of the relationship between friends and transfer it to relationships with people.

Listen to yourself and to each other. Talk and argue with
yourself, and work on yourself to fulfill the beauty of the soul.
The most important thing is love.

These are not cliches for me, I have been working every day to fulfill the human side in me like my father taught me as a child.
With love, Tamara

I Pray To God

I Pray To God

Date: 02/12/07
Standing In Line

Standing In Line

Date: 02/12/07
When In Life's Dreams and Illusions

When In Life’s Dreams and Illusions

Date: 02/12/07
I Was Wandering

I Was Wandering

Date: 02/12/07
The Blinding Light First Felt

The Blinding Light First Felt

Date: 02/12/0

 

I Pray To God

My Prayer to God

I look around me
outside myself
and see much sadness,
pain and loss.
All striving to continue
on broken shreds of life.
To live with what was given

and survive.

I pray to God
when I am taken
please leave so love
will feel no loss
what was given to me
what is with me
that which is in me

my essence.

Standing in Line For Life

Standing in line
to eat
a plate of befouled soup
four pieces of bread
Standing in line
to be silent
to work and fall apart
Standing in line
to receive a blow
Standing in line
to be saved from the hell
Standing in line
towards a new life
Standing in line
for illusions and hurts
Standing in line
for happiness
for love
Standing in line
before being born
in front of counters
for giving
length of life
beauty
Wisdom…

Fate

There are lines
waiting that they be shortened
There are lines
we wish will never finish
that there will never be
a time to part
to forge into the unknown
to wonder why
the unfinishing lines finished
then the last line
the shortest

the End

When In Life’s Dreams and Illusions

When in life’s dreams and illusions
it is frightening to live
feel the pulsing of the universe.
Feel life flowing through you
and not beside you
the broad expanse of space
caressing
as if protecting you from harm.
And in minutes of forsakenness,
do not be afraid
just live.

Was Wandering


I was wandering
between joy and pain
between dream and reality.
I went to a rendezvous.
It was hope.

The Blinding Light First Felt

From blinding light first felt
the sinews growing
outwards towards decay
grabbing and losing
in exhilaration
the disillusion seeds
cycles of movement
folding in upon themselves
in desperation
destroying all that hope created
returning once again in
to conquer darkness
and continue the eternal quest

Tamara Deuel
Translated from the original Hebrew 2006

 

Purpose:

On this site, the attempt has been made by the site administrator to present much material which is not to be found on the two previous sites of Tamara. There has been some overlap in order to preserve the continuity of materials and periods. The major theme running throughout the site and the art is the Holocaust. Through this experience is the hope that such an event will never happen again.
________________

Below is a review by Bella Shomer Zeichik, the curator of the exhibition of Tamara’s paintings at the the new museum at Yad Mordichai.

KADDISH
Tamara Deuel

The museum “From Shoah to Establishment of the
State of Israel” at Kibbutz Yad Mordechai opened a
new exhibition of the painter Tamara Deuel.
In the series “Kaddish” done in mixed media, the
artist raises the spirits of those who died in the
Shoah.

Her works hang in the gallery on the second floor of
the museum and are seen as a series of visions and
depictions derived from other worlds and spheres.
The wail of Tamara is a singular voice flowing from
the soul and deals with a spiritual expression of art
which is almost religious. The paintings and
the pieces of biography are the journey from death
and remnants of the loss of life to belief and healing.
Her creation penetrates the heart and expresses a
testament and a ritual of endless prayer.

“I swear that to the last day of my life I will not
forget nor forgive in remembrance of the multitude and
the precious two who on the day that I was born, gave
me life.”

________________

Links to Other Sites of Tamara Deuel

Extensive Letters and Writings – Tamara Deuel with Bernard Banville
remember.org – Major Holocaust remembrance site – portal to Tamara’s site

List of Museums and Exhibitions
[*]Yad VaShem, Israel 3 paintings Donated
[*]Yad Haad Museum for the Holocaust Moshav Nir Galim
[*]Museum Tel Yithak, Israel 7 works donated
[*]Achva College in the Negev, Israel 1 donated
[*]Holocaust Museum Washington DC., U.S. various photographs
[*]Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial.Museum, Poland 3 paintings donated
[*]From Shoah to Establishment of the State of Israel Museum, Kibbutz Yad Mordechai – Exhibition
________________

Review Upon First Viewing Tamara’s Work

“Abyss of the Dispossessed”

I am greatly moved by the work of Tamara Deuel. I
visit each tableau with a sense of wonderment,
noticing with subsequent viewings very subtle changes
in content. Hidden images emerge, eliciting from the
minds eye new interpretations of dreamlike amorphous
shapes. Forms dissolve and become new forms. Bodies
interlace with bodies, appearing and disappearing like
ghosts in foggy whisps of despair entwined with
occasional flourishes of hope. Faces emerge, some gray
and almost lifeless, corpselike masks of anguish.
Others materialize seeming more filled with life
energy, wraithlike forms punctuated with occasional
innocent smiles from a lost childhood. Light and
darkness grapple with each other, and strong colors
accentuate the foreboding atmospheres which permeate
the paintings.

Unlike much other art of the holocaust, which,
although powerful, tends more toward literal
representation of life conditions in the death camps,
Tamara Deuel’s work contains imagery filled with
metaphor and metonym, poetically rendering horrors
witnessed and experienced. It documents the memory of
brutal journeys and severe hardships endured. In the
poetical expression of its vision is found a
disturbing beauty and transformational essence. It is
work made, not by attempting to create a
representational likeness of the external world, but
by engaging the imaginative apparatus and powers of an
intuitive inner mind, and bringing forth original
images from the labyrinth of emptiness…it is an
oeuvre which navigates the dark and endless corridors
of the abyss and ignites the inner flame of conscious
awareness.

The works are crowded with the melancholic perfume of
death…the virulent scent of living too closely
together under unimaginably harsh conditions of
oppression. They are also overwhelmingly endowed with
the light of transcendence…the illumination of souls
traversing shadow lands of oblivion and emerging
beyond all hope of survival to experience one more day
of life…evoking as well, the stark reality of trying
to preserve existence when the only sustenance is from
steaming kettles of bland lifeless broth, gray liquid
devoid of nutrition…barely enough for physical
survival.

The images are overwhelming in their portrayal of a
humanity dispossessed of its due right to
existence…of beings erased from the continuum of the
living. There is as well, a sense of solitary survival
in figures surrounded by displaced foregrounds and
shifting firmament of a hell beyond all
description…an unreality, a psychosis of existential
fragmentation so extreme as to render the likelihood
of survival impossible…unthinkable…a delusional
dream…yet in all this, there is a tender rendering
of hope for the coming of dawn, of a new day, of a
change in the dank ruthless climate, of reprieve from
the relentless darkness ceaselessly hovering on the
edges of awareness.

Tamara Deuel’s art remembers the past, and does not
allow us to forget…forged by treacherous
deportations across landscapes of suffering and death,
it exists nonetheless as the most gracious gift
possible from an artist who has navigated the worst
nightmares this misguided world has ever brought into
existence. In gazing upon this rich and vibrant work,
one contemplates the miracle of human capacity for
endurance.

Ben Banville 2005