Yehuda Bacon was born in Moravska Ostrava, Czechoslovakia on 28 July 1929. He grew up in a traditional Jewish religious home, along with two older sisters. He was a member of the Bnei Akiva youth movement.
In September 1942, when he was 13 years old, Bacon was deported to Terezin. While there he lived in Jugendheim (children's home) L.417. Life in the children's homes was collective, with groups of 200-300 being sub-divided into smaller groups of 15-40 children. Most of the 15,000 children in Terezin would die in the gas chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau.
From his childhood, Bacon wanted to draw. In Terezin he studied with the imprisoned artists Leo Haas, Otto Ungar and Karl Fleischmann (the latter two were murdered in the death camps). In December 1943 Bacon and his father were deported to Auschwitz, where his father died. While in Auschwitz, Bacon was part of a group of about 20 children whose job it was to pull wagons laden with the bodies of the dead - an activity he depicted in his works. He drew on wrapping paper, hiding his drawings in various places around the camp. Some of them he destroyed before room inspections.
On 18 January 1945 he left Auschwitz on the Death March, walking non-stop for 30 days and nights. He was liberated by the Americans at Gunskirchen camp, near Mauthausen, on 5 May 1945 when he was 15 and a half years old. In June 1945 he returned to Czechoslovakia and in 1946 migrated to Israel (Palestine).
Bacon testified at the Eichmann Trial, and at the Auschwitz Trial in Frankfurt - against the SS member Bratzki.
He studied art in Prague, Jerusalem (at the Bezalel School of Art), London, Paris and New York and then taught painting at the Bezalel School. Today he paints and exhibits all over the world.
Bacon donated some of his works from the war period to the art collection of Beit Lohamei Haghetaot (the Ghetto Fighters' House Museum).
(Dr Pnina Rosenberg)
Photo: Beit Lohamei Heghetaot
Interview with the artist, no date.
Beit Thereseinstadt (Thereseinstadt House) archive, Givat Haim-Ihud, Israel.
Janet Blater and Sybil Milton. Art of the Holocaust. Pan Books, London, 1982.
Miriam Novitch, Spiritual Resistance: Art from Concentration Camps 1940-1945 - A selection of drawings and paintings from the collection of Kibbutz Lohamei Haghetaot. Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1981.