Inside of the Jewish museum was a collection of work by the artist Bedřich Fritta. Bedřich Fritta was a Jewish artist trained in Paris who was later taken to the Theresienstadt ghetto during the second War. Here Fritta supervised the drawing studio of the Jewish technical department. There were up to 20 imprisoned artists working to produce construction plans and illustrations for reports that had to be sent to the SS commandant’s office. The illustrations that they were produced were to show the ghetto as a smoothly functioning, self governed model settlement. They were to hide the truth that was the misery and horror this “model” concentration camp was really.
- Bedřich Fritta, Facades for the International Commission, 1943/44
Ink, pen and brush, 57 x 84,5 cm<
The drawings that were on display were not this officially commissioned works but the unofficial drawings Fritta hid depicting the truth of the Theresienstadt ghetto. These works he created in inks and pen, later hiding in the walls of this place. The strongly contrasted drawings evoke the pain and ghastliness that Fritta must have felt each day. They depict the malnourished inhabitants and paint a truly dreadful picture of life for the victims of this war. In a few works it even illustrates how those running this ghetto would embellish the area when visitors came, hiding bodies and “fixing up” the model Jewish inhabitants.
- Bedřich Fritta, The Life of a Privileged Detainee, 1943/44
Pen and ink, 58,3 x 74 cm
I find it this work to be a true testimony of how strong this artist was during this trying time. Despite knowing the amount of trouble he could encounter, the hardships and injustice he saw pushed him to create this work. There was one piece that really touched me. It was a small movie that was made of a book he drew or his son Tomas for his third birthday. Unfortunately, these unofficial drawings were found, sending Fritta and his family to a Gestapo jail. Later Fritta was sent to Auschwitz where he died of exhaustion.
- Bedřich Fritta, “To Tommy, for His Third Birthday in Terezin, 22 January 1944” © Thomas Fritta-Haas, loan to the Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Jens Ziehe
Boros Collection Bunker
Inside a massive 5 story solid concrete building on Reinhardstrasse in Berlin, lays the Boros Collection Bunker. The collection is not housed inside any normal building but in a semi-renovated old bunker from WW2. The building was first intended to be an air-raid shelter for the civilian population built by forced labor. The history of the building is pretty interesting: shelter turned prison, turned fruit warehouse, turned rave club, and finally into a huge art shape. The entire building is 38 meters (125 feet) long and 16 meters (52 feet) and has concrete walls that are 2 meters thick. Obviously, this building would have withstood an air raid without any problems.
While the building and its history are definitely impressive, the artwork that is exhibited inside is also of a high caliber. The 3,000-square-meter interior space, which once sheltered 2,000 people from flying bombs, now holds contemporary works by a variety of artists. Currently the aritsts Ai Weiwei, Awst & Walther, Dirk Bell, Cosima von Bonin, Marieta Chirulescu, Thea Djordjadze, Olafur Eliasson, Alicja Kwade, Klara Lidén, Florian Meisenberg, Roman Ondák, Stephen G. Rhodes, Thomas Ruff, Michael Sailstorfer, Tomás Saraceno, Thomas Scheibitz, Wolfgang Tillmans, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Danh Vo, Cerith Wyn Evans and Thomas Zipp are showing at the collection.
The current exhibition installed by these artists is only the second show (ever) the Boros Collection has had. Unfortunately, I was unable to take pictures inside the bunker but it was diffidently a great experience. While the space had been somewhat renovated it still is clearly a bunker and is not the typical “gallery” look we are used to. Seeing the artwork intertwine and utilize the design of the old bunker was really inspiring.