Shalom Life | July 28, 2014

Icons of Loss: The Art of Samuel Bak Comes to Toronto

Internationally Renowned Artist Made the Holocaust Subject of His Work

By: Daniel Horowitz

Published: January 26th, 2012 in News » World

Icons of Loss: The Art of Samuel Bak Comes to Toronto

Television has been referred to as a “vast wasteland”. But for 86-year-old Torontonian and Holocaust survivor Gerda Frieberg, television recently served as a portal into the past.

The year was 2009. It was 5 a.m. when Gerda, a past chair of Canadian Jewish Congress Ontario Region, a member of United Jewish Appeal’s Atarah Division and, in 1985, the founding chair of UJA Federation’s Holocaust Education Centre - now the Sarah and Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre - unable to sleep, turned on the set to help pass the time from dark to light.

It was then that she began flipping from channel to channel when,suddenly, she saw a face - a face that took her back more than 60 years.

It was the face of renowned artist Samuel Bak, now 78, a man who Gerda had first met during her time in a Displaced Persons Camp in the German town of Landsberg from 1945to 1949.

She still remembered Samuel as the fresh-faced young boy of 12 or 13 who accompanied his mother on her regular visits to Gerda – the camp’s consummate seamstress - who made many of her clothes.

With every visit to Gerda, Samuel’s mom expressed how she yearned for him to be able to showcase his remarkable gift as a painter.She worried that he might never have the opportunity to fully tap into his talents as the times were uncertain, to say the least.

“She was always talking about her son,” remembers Gerda. “She would tell me how talented he was and how she was determined to get Samuel into an art school in Munich.Nothing was more important; she just knew he would become a great artist given theopportunity. I often wondered over the years what ever happened to her son.”

Now, thanks to the show on WGBH Public Television early that morning, which highlighted Samuel Bak and many of his paintings depicting the Holocaust, Gerda’s questions were finally answered.

But it was one painting in particular that caught Gerda’s attention.

One of the last paintings shown was, as Samuel explained to the host, from that same Landsberg DP Camp where Gerda first met little Samuel.

“This is when I first realized that the artist on this television show could be the son of my old customer,” recalls Gerda. “That prompted me to wait for the credits to roll where I found the artist’s name and the gallery that represented him.”

For more than 40 years, many of Bak’s works have been on display at the prestigious Pucker Gallery in Boston, Massachusetts.

“Would you by any chance be the young boy I met in Landsberg?” Gerda wrote in a letter to Samuel after seeing the show. “If so, then your mother’s dream came true; she must have been so proud of you, as any mother would be. I would very much like to hear from you….”

That summer, soon after sending the letter, Gerda was on a plane to Boston to connect with the successful artist.

“I had always thought about Samuel, and wanted to reconnect with him after all these years,” says Gerda. “But, until that television show, I couldn’t remember his last name. Every time I saw a painting depicting the Holocaust, I thought it might be his. I was never sure, but always curious. Now, I finally knew for sure.”Gerda, so impressed with her friend’s work, began campaigning to have Bak’s exhibit brought to Toronto.

And, thanks to Gerda’s energy and tenacity, she has turned her dream into a reality.

From March 1 to April 30th, 2012, UJA Federation of Greater Toronto presents “Icons of Loss: The Art of Samuel Bak”at The Columbus Centre’s Joseph D. Carrier Art Gallery (901 Lawrence Avenue, West.)

Ron Dermer to CNN: You Do Your Viewers A Disservice [VIDEO] Ron Dermer to CNN: You Do Your Viewers A Disservice [VIDEO] TrendingOp-Ed: Recep Tayyip Erdoğan – With Friends Like This Who Needs Enemies? Op-Ed: Recep Tayyip Erdoğan – With Friends Like This Who Needs Enemies? TrendingSenior Hamas Officials Are Living the Good Life Senior Hamas Officials Are Living the Good Life Trending
 

Lena Dunham and Andy Samberg Team Up For HBO Mockumentary

July 25, 2014 | By Ashley Baylen
Lena Dunham and Andy Samberg Team Up For HBO Mockumentary

The 'Girls' and 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine' stars will appear in an upcoming sports mockumentary.

Read More

Joan Rivers Staunchly Defends Israel, Insults Selena Gomez [VIDEO]

July 25, 2014 | By Ashley Baylen
Joan Rivers Staunchly Defends Israel, Insults Selena Gomez [VIDEO]

The controversial comedian slammed Gomez for her #PrayForGaza tweet

Read More

The Ten Best Seinfeld Memes

July 25, 2014 | By Caitlin Marceau & Daniel Koren
The Ten Best Seinfeld Memes

We look at some of the most entertaining memes inspired by the iconic TV show

Read More

Jesse Eisenberg Feels Safe In Israel, Calls It "A Wonderful Country"

July 25, 2014 | By Ashley Ramnarain
Jesse Eisenberg Feels Safe In Israel, Calls It "A Wonderful Country"

The 'Social Network' star recently visited for a Q&A at Beit Lessin Theatre

Read More

James Franco Outs His Brother Dave, Tells Internet He's Dating Zac Efron

July 25, 2014 | By Ashley Ramnarain
James Franco Outs His Brother Dave, Tells Internet He's Dating Zac Efron

The 'Neighbors' co-stars are apparently in a serious relationship, according to a very unreliable gossip site

Read More

Guess what Canada? Daniel Radcliffe is Stuck Here Due To Visa Issues

July 25, 2014 | By Ashley Ramnarain
Guess what Canada? Daniel Radcliffe is Stuck Here Due To Visa Issues

Torontonians should be on the look out for the former 'Harry Potter' star

Read More

Shia LaBeouf Arrives in Court For 'Cabaret' Incident

July 25, 2014 | By Ashley Ramnarain
Shia LaBeouf Arrives in Court For 'Cabaret' Incident

The former 'Transformers' actor appeared unshaven in a suit to face charges for criminal trespass, disorderly conduct and harassment

Read More

Cupcake Truck Calls Israelis "Zionist Pigs"

July 25, 2014 | By Hugh Holt
Cupcake Truck Calls Israelis "Zionist Pigs"

New York-based Cupcake Crew, a finalist on Cupcake Wars, tweet some rather offensive comments

Read More

More Headlines