A reception at the Sheen Center was held for the exclusive New York unveiling of the Dachau Album, a leather bound collection of thirty ink and watercolor art work (along with hundreds of personal and archival photographs) vividly depicting life and death in the infamous WWII Nazi concentration camp. Independent scrutiny by several Holocaust scholars and institutions has deemed it a historic document of cultural, social and artistic significance. Presented by the Arnold Unger Foundation for Remembrance Inc., in association with the Jewish Broadcasting Service, the event featured a presentation by foundation president and executive director Avi Hoffman and CEO Shari Unger and a panel discussion sponsored by the University of Miami’s Sue and Leonard Miller Center for Contemporary Judaic Studies and The Manhattan Jewish Historical Initiative.
At Dachau, Jews, artists, intellectuals, homosexuals, even members of the Catholic clergy, and the mentally and physically handicapped were used as slave labor to manufacture weapons and subjected to cruel medical experiments. The abject brutality of conditions is manifested in the raw yet detailed simplicity of the Dachau Album illustrations, sequentially arranged in a terrifying and heartbreaking narrative from enslavement to torture and carnage. Hidden for decades and shrouded still in mystery, it has woven together the fates of Arnold Unger, who had been a 15-year old Jewish Dachau prisoner, and fellow detainee Michal Porulski, the Roman Catholic artist to whom the drawings are attributed.
It is believed that this album was a made by the camp’s American liberators as personal memento for Mr. Unger, who immigrated to the US with sixty other Holocaust orphans after the war. He went on to a career in aeronautical engineering and started a family. But according to daughter Shari, her father never spoke of his wartime experiences. In 1972 faced with his wife’s impending death from terminal illness and the loss of his job, he committed suicide. The album was discovered among his possessions by Ms. Unger who, aided by Mr. Hoffman and the American Jewish University’s Michael Berenbaum, began an extensive investigation that stretched across continents. They uncovered shreds of information on the harrowing early life of her father, as well as what became of Mr. Porulski, a perennially impoverished artist who led a lifetime of indigent struggle before eventually passing away in 1989. Though both men survived the Holocaust, it seems they did so without quite escaping deep and indelible scars that would languish and bleed over the following generations. But now, the Dachau Album serves as a compelling testament of atrocities best remembered as a lesson in remaining ever vigilant against bigotry and to celebrate cultural, racial and religious diversity. DachauAlbum.org