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A painted tribute to Holocaust survivors

By Jeffrey Kelson

22 March to 10 April, 2016

Jewish Holocaust Centre

13-15 Selwyn St, Elsternwick

03 9528 1985

Artist Jeffrey Kelson says the exhibition of his paintings of 20 Holocaust survivors is an homage to the them, honouring each invidual as a reflection of that person's life force.

"My parents were lucky as they were both immigrants who arrived in Australia before the war, so they were untouched by the loss of family to the Holocaust.

"However, I had this sense of urgency, to paint portraits of the survivors, to contribute my skills to record and honour each survivor's character,"Jeffrey said.

Despite the horror of what they had lived though, he said their dignity, fortitude and resilience shone through.

Most of them went on to rebuild their lives and were successes in their chosen fields, nurturing families, with their survival alone being a testimony to their strength.

There was also the sense of urgency when he started the project, as most of the survivors are now in their 80s and 90s.

The labour of love took him about six months, from sitting and chatting with them while photographing them, to painting them in his studio.

Among those painted is 86-year-old Henri Korn who survived part of the war as a Catholic altar boy.

Born in Wuppertal, Germany in 1929, Henri's parents had moved there from Poland and assimilated so well, that young Henri was shocked when he had to leave his school because he was Jewish.

In 1939 the family fled to Brussels and Henri and his sister were hidden by a Catholic woman who conviced the siblings to convert to Catholicism, with the promise of redemption.

While grateful for the shelter, he struggled for many years with identity issues and has written books about his experience.

Jeffrey says, "The people I have met have given me a gift.

"Their survival and their lives since are a gift to us all."

Artist Jeffrey Kelson in his studio.

Joe De Haan, a holocaust survivor and one of the subjects of Tribute.