The Museum’s exhibition Rendering Witness: Holocaust-Era Art as Testimony displays art produced by Jews and other victims of the Nazis during the Holocaust.  Each artwork in this exhibition reasserts the artist’s humanity and individuality, qualities too often obscured by iconic Holocaust photographs that were taken by the Nazis or their collaborators. We will highlight artwork from this exhibition in a series of blog posts.

Martha Klein von Peci (1890 –1983) left Vienna after the Nazi annexation of Austria in 1938 and fled to Czechoslovakia. Shortly thereafter, in March 1939, she found herself once again under Nazi control, later deported to the Terezin Ghetto. While a prisoner in Terezin, von Peci worked as a housekeeper in Barracks L 126 and L 128 and collected art, poems, and inscriptions in this book from fellow prisoners housed there.

"Book of Remembrances, c. 1942 – 1945" by Martha Klein von Peci.
“Book of Remembrances, c. 1942 – 1945” by Martha Klein von Peci. Despite the horrors of imprisonment in the Terezin Ghetto, Martha Klein von Peci managed to fill this book with poems, passages, and art created by fellow prisoners in her barrack and workplace. Many of the entries are uplifting, like one from Paul Winterstein, who lived from 1876 to 1945. He wrote, “Every book has its fate – Every house has its spirit – This house has a good angel – Whose name is Martha Klein von Peci.” Martha Klein von Peci survived the Holocaust and left Czechoslovakia with her son, Herbert, in 1949. They lived in Argentina until receiving visas to immigrate to the United States in 1958. These pages made with pen, ink, colored pencil, and pencil on paper. Gift of Herbert von Peci.

Martha Klein von Peci remained in the Terezin Ghetto until its liberation by the Red Army in May 1945. After the war, von Peci reunited with her son Herbert. An Austrian citizen by birth, Herbert was categorized by the Nazis as a Mischling (having both Jewish and German ancestry). Discharged from the German Army in 1940, the Gestapo later arrested him.

They both fled communist Czechoslovakia in 1949 for Argentina and eventually settled in the United States in 1958.