The late Pat Mercer Hutchens (1937-2014), teacher and accomplished practicing artist, completed a series of forty paintings to remember and honor those who perished in the Holocaust. All the paintings were motivated by the Auschwitz Album, the only surviving photographic evidence of Jews arriving and being “processed” at a Nazi death camp.
Although the historical purpose of the Aushwitz Album is unknown, the photographers are most likely SS officers given the task of taking photo IDs of all inmates. The photographs document the ‘selection process’ of Hungarian Jews who arrived to Auschwitz in the summer of 1944. Those ‘fit to work’ were registered, deloused, and robbed of all their personal effects. The woman, elderly, and children deemed ‘unfit to work’ were brought straight to the gas chambers, under the guise of taking a harmless shower. In 200 photos, the Auschwitz album documents everything from the arrival on the train ramp to each phase of the selection process. The album was used as evidence of the Nazi’s mass murder in the Frankfurt-Auschwitz trials.
Lilly Jacob-Zelmanovic Meier recently donated the album to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Israel. Lilly, a Holocaust survivor, miraculously found the album on the day of her liberation in a cupboard in an abandoned SS barracks. Providentially, the album contained the last pictures of Lilly’s family and friends, right before their extermination.
Pat’s paintings particularly focus on the women and children in the Auschwitz album. Pat said, “I know well the heart of a loving, protective mother who would gladly give every bone in her body to save her babies. May their God and ours use these paintings for His eternal purpose.” (Watch Video of Pat’s interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network)
Regent University Library hosted the world premier of “The Auschwitz Album Revisited” (Read Press Review of Event or watch the video of the ceremony). The paintings were also brought on invitation to the Krakow Jewish Cultural Festival in Poland. The Holocaust museum in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine opened a special exhibit of the paintings in January 2014.
The Jerusalem Connection is offering archival prints (giclees) of these original paintings, personally signed by the artist to you, for a suggested donation of $75. One hundred percent of your donation goes to help support the work of The Jerusalem Connection. Measure of all artwork in this series is 10″x10″. Copyright by Pat Mercer Hutchens 2012.
The full statistics of how many little ones perished in the Holocaust is impossible to calculate, but it has been estimated that 1.5 million were murdered. That would include those who died from starvation, exposure, lack of adequate clothing and shelter, those who perished in the ghettos or suffocated on cattle cars en route to various concentration camps, those shot for looking at a guard or asking a question and all those sent to be gassed and burned immediately after arriving at a death camp. At Auschwitz, the children were either separated or sent with their mother or siblings to waiting fields called “not fit for work.” Thinking they were going for a shower, they were then made to undress and crammed like sardines into gas chambers. When the doors were locked, Zyklon B was dropped in from above. Witnesses tell of hearing screams for up to 20 minutes before they finally died. As Hitler’s plan sped up, many children were thrown, clothes and all, into fire pits. The prophet Jeremiah speaks of a “Voice heard in Ramah, Lamentations and bitter weeping, Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted because they were no more (Jeremiah 31).” Although nothing could ever replace a single slaughtered precious child, in that same passage in the Hebrew Scriptures, the LORD promised Israel a future, a hope and a return to their Homeland, Eretz Israel. “Your children will come again to their own borders.”
Good night, you prince of Judah, you king of Israel
Many times I heard my mother say, “Always remember when you speak to a child – you never know who you are talking to.” She would go on to say something like “You may be speaking to a child who will find the cure for cancer, or a child who will grow up and save your life – or your child’s life. You may be looking at a great pastor or teacher or leader of people.” When I saw this child I immediately thought of her words. I also remembered the old doctor in Cider House Rules who, just before bedtime and lights out, lovingly called out to the young orphans, “Good night you princes of Maine, you Kings of New England.” This little one represents the countless babies and children whose lives and destiny were snuffed out before their time. Below is an adaptation of part of the prayer that a Cantor chants in memory of those who were murdered in the Holocaust:
God, full of mercy, Who dwells on high, grant proper rest under the wings of the Divine Presence in the lofty levels of the holy and pure ones, who shine like the glory of the firmament – for the soul of our little brother, this innocent child of the Jewish people, who fell at the hands of murderers, whose blood was spilled in Auschwitz, who, with his mother, brother and sister, was slain, slaughtered and burned. May they repose in their resting place With God as their inheritance. (Click here to view original photo)
There will be accountability for the countless young lives of these precious children who were cut off before their time. In the Sovereign LORD is hope, justice, and redemption. Notice the young boy is carrying a flashlight in his right hand and the older boy at the left in uniform stands with his little brother (also in uniform) and holding his little sister with the red shoes. The look and stance of the little toddler at the right is haunting.
The Scripture that keeps coming to me regarding these children who were literally taken from the cattle cars at Auschwitz and murdered within minutes is this: “All they who devour you shall be devoured; all your adversaries, everyone one of them shall go into captivity; they that spoil thee shall be a spoil, and all that prey upon you will I give for a prey. For I will restore health unto you, and I will heal you of your wounds, says Yahweh, because they called you an Outcast, saying, ‘This is Zion, whom no man seeks after or cares about’….I will bring again the captivity of Jacob’s tents and have mercy….and out of them shall proceed thanksgiving….and I will multiply them, and they shall not be few…their children also shall be as before, and their congregation shall be established before me…and you shall be my people and I will be your God.” (Jeremiah 30:17f)
Many of these precious victims no doubt tried to be positive and keep on believing something good or someone would eventually come and save them. Most could not even grasp the degree of The Evil confronting them and thereby continued to go forward. However, at some point on the long path to slaughter, all but the innocent babies and toddlers would have seen what was coming. There were those, however, who “knew” from the beginning, either by intuition or from rumors back in the ghetto of mass murders of Jews by the Nazis. Or just from being one who “knows.”
Whenever the time came for her, this woman now knows. She has no naïve thoughts left. She makes no effort at hope. She has pulled her black shawl over her head and now grasps it with a strong hand. She walks straight toward the storm. Perhaps she is already at the door of the fake “showers” and hears the screams of those being gassed. Perhaps she knows the smell of the burning flesh coming from the crematoria. Perhaps she passed the Fire Pits of ’44 and saw babies being tossed in alive, clothes and all. Whatever the reasons, the woman in black now knows.
The small Album photo did not give a clear picture of her hand, so I painted my strong Irish hand as her own, symbolically giving a sister in death the hand which I could not give her in life – thereby bonding our destinies.
When Lili Jacobs accidently discovered the Auschwitz Album at the close of WWII, the very first person she saw when she looked inside was Rabbi Naftali Zvi Weiss, the chief rabbi of Bilke, her Rabbi from her home town. He is the man on the left in this painting. The man on the right is not yet identified but obviously is a fellow orthodox Jew. These spiritual leaders of Zion would quickly have their beards and payot chopped off by the Nazis and their hats removed – just for sport – to bring more humiliation and shame a few minutes before they were murdered. I was struck by the Yellow Star on the Rabbi’s jacket; it actually appears to be cringing. (Click here to view original photo)
I was so struck by this beautiful baby girl, one of the myriad of babies and small children murdered immediately upon arriving at Auschwitz. Here she hangs her arm peacefully over her mother’s back while being held close, safe and warm at her mother’s breast. This child hasn’t a care in the world and has no idea of what is soon to happen. While another young child and the mothers huddle and gaze at distant dangers, she feels completely safe with her Emma (Mommie). How many times I used to pull the sleeves down over the arms of my babies because I had no gloves to keep their little hands warm. The longer I painted on this artwork, the more I wanted to reach out and pluck her right out of the painting. I so longed to be able to save this Little Pink Rose of Hungary, but must settle for making her precious little face known, remembered and not forgotten.
In the Spring and Summer of 1944 alone, 450,000 Hungarian Jews were murdered in Auschwitz. Of that group, 75% were women and children and upon arriving were sent to their death immediately. From the time they got off the cattle cars until they were stuffed into the gas chambers was usually no more than one to two hours. This mother appeared to me to be saying, “These, my beautiful children, are being brought as lambs to the slaughter!” (Isa.53) Scripture point to a future judgment for these evils: “Woe to whoever causes one of these little ones to stumble – it would be better if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were drowned in the depths of the sea.”(Matt.18.6)