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Holocaust Remembrance Month: Righteous Among The Nation: Books

This guide showcases the materials in the Dayton Holocaust Resource Center that is highlighted in the Holocaust Remembrance Month display, available to visit on the 2nd floor of the Paul Laurence Dunbar Library.

Nelly S. Toll

 Nelly S. Toll was born Nelly Landau in  Lwow  (now Lviv), Galicia (now southeastern Poland and western Ukraine) in 1932. Her father went into hiding in 1939 due to the Soviet occupation of the region, fearing deportation to Siberia. The situation worsened during the German occupation. They had more to fear since they were Jewish. Her five-year-old brother was taken and murdered during a seizure of the area and Nelly’s family knew they had to flee to Hungary but failed. Nelly S. Toll was born Nelly Landau in  Lwow  (now Lviv), Galicia (now southeastern Poland and western Ukraine) in 1932. Her father went into hiding in 1939 due to the Soviet occupation of the region, fearing deportation to Siberia. The situation worsened during the German occupation. They had more to fear since they were Jewish. Her five-year-old brother was taken and murdered during a seizure of the area and Nelly’s family knew they had to flee to Hungary but failed.    By 1943, Nelly’s father arranged for Christian friends to hide them in the city, where he planned on joining them later. Through 1943 and 1944, Nelly and her mother hid, where Nelly’s mother told her to paint,  write stories, and keep a diary. Nelly painted over 60+ watercolor paintings depicting her thoughts and experiences.  Lwow was liberated in 1944 and Nelly and her mother came out of hiding as the sole survivors of their family.  Nelly and her mother stayed in Europe and Nelly studied art. Nelly married Ervin Toll. Nelly’s works in hiding became a significant source for the Holocaust and was featured in many exhibits, including the Massillon Museum and Deutsches Historische Museum in Germany. Her works are permanently displayed at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center. Nelly Toll passed away at 88, in New Jersey, of cardiac arrhythmia in 2021.

Elie Wiesel

Elie Weisel was born in Sighet, Transylvania (now modern-day Romania) in 1928. He was the only son of four children born to Jewish parents. In 1944, the Nazis began occupying Hungary, which Sighet was a part of. Wiesel and his family were all deported to Auschwitz. Upon arrival, Wiesel’s young sister and mother were taken to the gas chambers and killed.  He, his father, and two other sisters were put into the forced labor section of the camp. Wiesel was forced to work in a factory there before he and his father were transferred to Buchenwald. Sadly, his father died soon after their arrival. Despite being just seventeen years old, Wiesel remained resilient. Buchenwald was liberated by Allied troops on April 11th, 1945. After liberation, Wiesel went to Paris and pursued a career as a journalist. He released his first book, Night, which was an account of his time in concentration camps. Wiesel moved to the United States in 1956 and became a citizen soon after. He taught at various universities, including City College of New York and Boston University. Wiesel was appointed chairman of the President’s Commission on the Holocaust by Jimmy Carter and worked tirelessly to spread awareness of the Holocaust. His works reflect the trauma he experienced during these times. He authored over thirty books about his experiences. Wiesel passed away in 2016 at the age of 87.

Alfred Kantor

Alfred Kantor was born in November 1923 in Prague. He studied art at the Rottner School of Advertising for two years in Prague before being expelled in 1941. Alfred was transported to the Theresienstadt Concentration camp and was put into the Terezin ghetto. He sought out any materials he could to sketch the daily life of Jews in the camp, which the Nazis were duping the world into thinking it was a safe and healthy environment. Alfred knew he was going to be transported to different camps so he left his drawings to a friend who kept them safe. Alfred was taken to Auschwitz where he struggled to find supplies until a doctor slipped him a watercolor set. Painting in Auschwitz was much more dangerous as it was prohibited unless given permission. If he was caught, he would be killed. He was able to paint but had to destroy most of his work and hide some so guards did not see. Alfred was transferred to Schwarzheide concentration camp in 1944 where he was forced to help rebuild a fuel camp. The war ended and Alfred was transported back to  Theresienstadt with 1,000 other prisoners but only 175 survived, including Alfred. Alfred was put into Deggendorf Displaced Persons Camp where he created more art from his time during the war. He moved to the US where he joined the US Army and later finished school. He worked for an advertising business in New York. In 1971, McGraw-Hill published ''The Book of Alfred Kantor'',  which showed the art and sketches of what he created during the war while some were recreated from memory. Many of his works are inspired by the Impressionist movement and depict the reality of what the camps truly were. Alfred Kantor died at 79 in 2003. 

Music of the Holocaust

Charlotte Salomon

Image of Charlotte painting in the garden.Charlotte Salomon was born on April 16, 1917, in Berlin. Her mother died by suicide in 1926, and her father, a professor, remarried in 1930 to an opera singer, who encouraged her to become closer to her Jewish faith. In 1933, with the rise of the Nazis to power, both of Charlotte’s parents lost their jobs due to persecution, and she dropped out of school to focus on art. In 1936, she was accepted to the State Art Academy, which only admitted a limited percentage of Jewish students. During Kristallnacht, Charlotte’s father was arrested and taken to the concentration camp Sachsenhausen, where he was tortured. Her father was released and sent Charlotte to live in refuge with her grandparents in Southern France, while he and his wife fled to Amsterdam. In May of 1940, Charlotte and her grandfather were sent to a concentration camp, where she witnessed other artists creating work in bleak and desolate conditions of imprisonment. She moved to the Riviera in 1941 and began crafting her autobiographical work “Life? Or Theatre?”, which featured paintings depicting events in her life.She went back to Southern France and lived with another German-Jewish refugee, Alexander Nagler. She became pregnant and the two were married. Nazi occupation intensified in September 1943, and both Charlotte and Alexander were arrested and taken to a transit camp outside of Paris. On October 7, 1943, a pregnant Charlotte Solomon and Alexander Nagler were taken to Auschwitz. It is believed that she was killed on arrival. Her magnum opus, 'Life? Or Theatre?', donated by her parents, remains a poignant testament to her life and artistry, housed in the Jewish Historical Museum of Amsterdam.

Dina Babbitt

 Dina Babbitt was born in Brno, Czechoslovakia (modern-day Czech Republic), in 1923 to a Jewish family. She was studying in Prague when the Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia, and in 1942, she and her mother were arrested. Initially sent to Theresienstadt concentration camp, they were later transferred to Auschwitz. It was at Auschwitz that Dina drew a mural depicting scenes from the Disney film "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," intended to bring some comfort to the young children in the camp. The painting gained the attention of Josef Mengele, who wanted to use Babbitt’s artistic skills to capture the skin color of Romani prisoners for racial purity purposes. During this time, her mother was scheduled to be gassed, so she agreed to this arrangement under the condition that her mother would be allowed to live. Mengele granted this request, and Dina’s seven surviving portraits became her most famous works. Both Dina and her mother survived, but sadly, her father and fiancé did not. After the war, she traveled to Paris, where she worked as an assistant to Art Babbitt, the creator of the Disney character Goofy. The two married later and had two children before getting divorced. After moving to Hollywood, she worked in animation. In 1973, the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum notified Babbitt that they had her paintings. However, when Babbitt requested them back so she could donate them to a museum of her choice, they refused. Babbitt traveled to Poland to demand their return and received support from the US government. Despite overwhelming support, she never received her paintings back. Her life and struggles were adapted into a comic book by Neal Adams and released in 2014. She died in 2009 at the age of 86.

Etty Hillesum

Etty Hillesum was born in 1914 and was the oldest of three siblings. Her father was a director of a high school and a language teacher. All of her siblings were gifted with one brother becoming a pianist and the other a physician. Etty moved to Amsterdam at 18 to study law and Slavic language. She started her diary in March 1941 and while Germany was occupying the Netherlands, Etty’s main focus was the therapy she was doing at the time. As time went on though, Etty could not ignore. On April 29, 1942, all Dutch Jews were ordered to wear a yellow Star of David. This changed Etty’s understanding of her identity. She had pride in being Jewish and her lover at the time, Julius Spier, was also Jewish which gave her comfort. Etty records the laws put into place for Jews like curfews and limited travel. She also mentions the threat that many Jews are facing like being deported to camps. In July 1942, she began a job with the Judenrat and then volunteered to accompany a group of Jews to Westerbork transit camp. She was given personal status with some privileges but it was revoked. Etty, along with her mother, father, and one of her brothers, became camp internees at Westerbork. The family, besides her one brother Jaap, were transported to Auschwitz. Etty was murdered in Auschwitz on 30 November 1943. Her parents died in transit or were murdered on arrival and both of her brothers, Jaap and Mischa, died as well. Etty became known as the experience of a woman dealing with the changing world that affected her because of her identity. Her writing deals with her spirituality and coming to terms with her identity as she was dealing with this harsh world. 

Samuel Bak

Samuel Bak was born in Vilna, Poland in 1933. Vilna was soon put under German occupation after he was born. Samuel’s first time showing his art was in an exhibit when he was only nine years old. He and his mother were able to hide and find shelter in a catholic convent thanks to a nun. While they were safe, his father and grandparents were all killed. After the war, he and his mother traveled to central Poland before going to American-occupied Germany. The two immigrated to Jerusalem where Samuel studied at the Bezalel Art School. Samuel then moved to went to Paris to study at the École des Beaux-Arts. He went to Rome in 1959 where he was able to have his paintings in an exhibit where he found a good amount of success. After, his art was featured in an exhibit in Pittsburgh. Samuel’s art has been award-winning and recognized as it weaves together many of the struggles that occurred in the Holocaust.  He has since returned to his hometown and faced his past. At the age of 90, Samuel Bak is an inspiration to  

Overall Books on Holocaust Art