Jewish Artist who Perished in the Holocaust Ghez Collection
In 1978, the noted late Swiss collector, Dr. Oscar Ghez, presented the University of Haifa with 137 works of art by 18 artists who perished in the Holocaust. Founder and president of the Petit Palais Museum in Geneva, Oscar Ghez de Castelnuovo had been collecting art since 1945. His collection represents most European art movements and schools from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

His first accidental encounter with a few pieces by artists lost to the Holocaust inspired Dr. Ghez to search for more work of this nature. It took him thirty years to assemble the collection, which he then donated to the University of Haifa. All the paintings, drawings, sculptures, and watercolors that are included in the collection were found and purchased in Paris.  Paris was also where all of the 18 artists lived, at least during a part of their artistic careers, and where most of them were arrested by the Nazis and their collaborators.

Paris was the center of a dramatic artistic revolution unfolding in Europe between the two world wars. Painters, sculptors, writers, and musicians from all over Europe and America were drawn to the French capital; they came to pursue their art amidst a highly charged creative atmosphere in which the now legendary figures of early Modernism were redefining Western Art. Among the artists who gathered there was a significant group of Jewish artists from Central and Eastern Europe. Sharing a common language (Yiddish) and background, Jewish artists (such as those included in the Ghez Collection) gravitated toward one another. Congregating around Montparnasse, they formed a kind of enclave, which came to be known as the Circle of Montparnasse, or the Jewish School of Paris.

As can be seen from this selection of paintings, many of the artists of the Jewish School of Paris embraced and experimented with various aspects of a new artistic language brought forward by the developing trends and isms of Modern Art.

But World War II would bring this rich creative activity to an abrupt and tragic end.  Most of the artists presented here, along with many others, were arrested and interned in the concentration camps of Drancy, Compiègne, and Gurs, and were ultimately deported to death camps. Thus, on many of the labels accompanying the exhibited works of art, a question mark has been placed where the year of the artist's death should appear, since in most cases it is not possible to know precisely when he or she died.  We know only the year that the artist was arrested and / or sent to a death camp or a concentration camp.

The Oscar Ghez Collection stands not only as a memorial to artists who perished in the Holocaust, but also as an important record documenting the creative output of 18 artists who were part of what has become known as the Jewish School of Paris.  Clearly, Dr. Ghez showed sensitivity and determination in seeking out and drawing together works by these artists. The collection is an invaluable living record of humanity's persistent will to create.

Dr. Oscar Ghez de Castelnuovo was awarded the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Honoris Causa from the University of Haifa in 1995.


Karl Haber, Woman with Dark Hair
oil on canvas, 61x46 cm
Natalie Kraemer, Trees
oil on canvas, 55.5X33 cm
Georges Ascher, The Birdcage
oil on canvas, 81X65 cm
Joachim Weingart, Still Life with Vase and Fruit
oil on canvas, 58X44 cm