About the Artist

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I was born on the 19th of January 1930, in the city of Stanislaw. During this period of 1919 to 1939, the region was under Polish rule.

My father Feibel was the proprietor of a large building materials business and his first wife, Hannah, was my grandfather’s sister. She succumbed to an illness after giving birth to two sons and two daughters. Approximately a year later, my mother Sheindel married my father and three children were born: Yisashar (Shusik), myself, who my father called Hershel or Hersh-Leibele and my younger brother, Yitzhak Arie.

The family ancestry was in farming the landowner's lands. When my grandfather became ill, the farm work suffered and the family descended into abject poverty. I was named after this grandfather.

During my life, I experienced three worlds each differing completely from the other. My childhood period, up to the age of ten, was in a loving and united family. We had many rabbis in our family and we owned a synagogue. My father, the son of a slaughterer-circumciser, was orthodox in his beliefs, but was also very open-minded about education.

I was an above average pupil, perhaps even among the brightest, but I was more attracted to the activity in our backyard. I knew how to use an axe and a saw before I learned the Bible. I loved smearing color and scribbling with coal, reproducing all the shapes that I had experienced – trees and animals, houses and chickens, the farmers in their unique clothing who came into the yard. At school, my talents were used for decorations and all tasks that required skilled hands.

This period in my childhood ended during the summer of 1939, when the war broke out. The Germans conquered Poland and Eastern Galicia fell to the Russians. The Russians were perceived as saviors. ‘In the name of justice’ they confiscated property. After being tortured and giving bribes, my family was banished to a city called Otonia, where we rented a room in my aunt’s apartment.

After two years of Soviet rule, war broke out between the Russians and the Nazis. The Nazis conquered a large number of the USSR states. This was a world ruled by the Nazis, who sentenced our people to extinction. The Nazis judges were the Ukrainians and other local people who cooperated with them. Even after the Russians left, the Ukrainians attacked and murdered the Jews of Otonia. About 400 Jews were dragged into the street and murdered right in front of our eyes.

We returned to my home city of Stanislaw. There I witnessed the collection of the academics who were murdered through trickery in the city of Pablaza, near Stanislaw. I experienced the horrific actions in our city on Hashanah Raba 1941, Passover 1942, Shavuot and Rosh Hashanah. The Germans committed their atrocities on the Jewish Holy days.

I remember life in the ghetto, the deportees from the towns, the ill and dead from hunger and disease. We survived in the ghetto until a week before its destruction in February 1943, when I was smuggled out to a hiding place close to the forest in the Borshtine district.

I was witness to the local Nazi collaborators, the malicious Ukrainians' persecution of the Jews who had fled into the forests. At first, they were motivated by their hatred of the Jews, but when the liberating Russian army was approaching, the Ukrainians murdered Jews because they feared the evidence of the survivors. They were cruel; they raped young girls and skewered them on wooden stakes until they died from the torture. We suffered from all this until the Red army freed us in July 1944.

We returned to our home city of Stanislaw and a few months later traveled to Krakow, Poland. Early in 1946, we stealthily crossed the border from Czechoslovakia into Austria and from there to the displaced persons camp in Germany – Fernwaldt. My mother remained in the camp for some time. After the war, from our large family, only my mother, my nephew and myself survived.

After some time in the camp, I left to France and joined to a Youth Aliya organization group of young people. The Youth Aliya organization brought us to the French border at the beginning of 1947. During the Second Aliya, on the decrepit ship Hama'apil Ha'almoni, we sailed until we got close to the shores of Palestine. After a struggle we were sent to Cyprus, where we stayed in a displaced persons camp for 10 months. Finally, we were permitted to immigrate to Palestine – the land of Israel. We were absorbed into a youth group at Kibbutz Galil Yam until being enlisted into the Palmach. We fought in the War of Independence in Jerusalem, the Negev and the Judean Hills. We participated in all of Israel's military campaigns.

I trained myself to work in refrigeration and air conditioning and in the field I undertook some of the biggest projects in Israel. During this period, I became acquainted with a young woman named Leah. As a baby, her nursemaid had saved her from the inferno. Leah was the only survivor from the Taube family of Belez. The Nissar family, who gave her a haven until she immigrated to Israel, returned her to Judaism.

I married my cherished wife Leah and this marked the beginning of my third world period. Together, we raised a loving family, with three children and four grandchildren. Throughout this time, while simultaneously working for a living and for the country, I was busy sculpturing, engraving and painting.

It is very important to me to keep the memories of the past alive in the Diaspora and in Israel, along the scenery and the journey of my life.

Zvi Halpern
Hershel Halpern (Zvi Halpern)