Hidden Gems in a Treasured Collection: The Works of Rachel Szalit-Marcus

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“Das Krankenzimmer” or “The Sick Room” 1920

When the Beck Archives became home for the Lowenstein Family Holocaust Papers it was certain the collection would contain a wealth of rare and irreplaceable resources. However, mixed within the collection, surprises waited. The Lowenstein Family Holocaust Papers survived due to the foresight and determination of the family’s matriarch, Maria Lowenstein. She knew how important these documents and artifacts were to the story of the family’s survival and as a tool to educate others on the inhumane cruelty of the Nazi regime.

Maria Lowenstein was an artist living in Berlin during the 1920s-40s. During her time there, she met and socialized with many other artists who called the Berlin art scene home. When the Lowenstein Family Holocaust Papers were donated to the Beck Archives, they included many works by Maria Lowenstein both from during the Holocaust as well as prior to and after WWII. Mixed in with Maria’s works, a few unrelated names graced some of the art, and those are where the hidden gems appear.

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“Die Strasse (?)” or “The Street (?)” 1920

Four pieces with a very distinct style were signed by artist Rachel Szalit-Marcus (1894-1942). She created lithographs to illustrate some of Sholem Aleichem’s (Solomon Naumovich Rabinovich) literary works. Aleichem is perhaps best known for his stories about the Russian-Jewish character Tevye and his daughters, the tales were later adapted into the play “Fiddler on the Roof.”

Szalit-Marcus was also an artist living in Berlin in the 1920s-30s. She was Jewish and fled Berlin to France in 1933 as Hitler rose to power but was ultimately apprehended and murdered at Auschwitz in 1942. The exact relationship between Maria Lowenstein and Rachel Szalit-Marcus is unknown but the presence of Szalit-Marcus works in the Lowenstein papers suggests some connection.

 

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“Die Fahrt Nach Amerika” or “The Journey to America” Circa 1920

More interestingly, three of the lithographs in the Beck Archives are dated 1920 and bear the original artist’s signature- not simply one that was engraved on the plate. The book for which these three lithographs were created was published in 1922 and contained scenes of Jewish life from an unfinished novel by Sholem Aleichem. An appraiser was able to authenticate the three Szalit-Marcus works from the Lowenstein Family Holocaust Papers featured in Menshelakh un stsenes as the artist’s originals. As a complement to the Lowenstein Family Holocaust Papers and Maria’s dedication to art, the Beck Archives was able to acquire a hardcover first edition of the book Menshelakh un stsenes.

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Sholom Aleichem’s “Menshelakh un stsenes” 1922

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Sholom Aleichem’s “Menshelakh un stsenes” 1922

 

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