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Alexander Bogen
(1916- )


Alexander Bogen was born in Vilna (now called Vilnius) in 1916, to the Katzenbogen family, who were doctors. He was the grandson of Rabbi Tuvia of Walkowisk, a famous rabbi and Torah scholar in his city. Bogen studied painting and sculpture at the Academy of Art in the University of Vilna.

During the war Bogen commanded a partisan brigade in the Narocz Forests of Belarus and infiltrated into the Vilna ghetto at its most difficult period, when many of the public activists were despairing over its certain destruction.

Working within the framework of the United Partisan Organization (FPO), Bogen organized groups of Jewish youth and led them to the forests to join the Nekama (Vengeance) partisan brigade, which would become famous for its fighting.

While in the Vilna ghetto, Bogen sketched its residents, alleys and the famous sites of Vilna - the "Jerusalem of Lithuania". In the forest, between battles, he drew the experiences of the fighters and portraits of Jewish partisans.

Once the war was over Bogen returned to the Academy of Art in Vilna. In 1947 he completed his studies magna cum laude and was appointed as a professor in the Advanced School of Art in Lodz, Poland. Bogen became famous in Poland as an artist, set designer and book illustrator. In 1951 he immigrated to Israel where he worked as a painter, sculptor and art educator.

Bogen donated some of his works from the war period to the art collection of Beit Lohamei Haghetaot (the Ghetto Fighters' House Museum). He has spoken about the nature of his war works and the reasons he produced them:

    We saw forsaken children. We saw people being taken for slaughter. I could not let my pencil fall. An artist doomed to death recording and so preserving those doomed to death. Was this a purely aesthetic purpose? Was I at ease with my conscience when I took a bereft mother, a forsaken little girl or a dying old man as my models? As a partisan I recorded in telegram style, so to say, while on my way to some action, leaning over my rifle or standing tensely in ambush. I sketched the forest, my brothers-in-arms, the battle itself. There was no table. There were no paints. There was no paper. I found packing paper. I burnt dry branches and prepared charcoal for my sketches.

    A partisan newspaper was published by the Brigade. I made woodcuts with my pen-knife and prepared them for the mobile press. Wherever I found myself I collected scraps of paper and went on sketching.

    I asked myself why I was drawing, when I was fighting day and night. This is something similar to biological continuity. Every man, every people, is interested to continue his people, his family, to bring his creative children for the future - to leave this one thing. Another motivation was to bring information to the so-named free world about the actions, the cruel, cruel actions of the Germans - some documentation. To tell about this to a world that was uninformed - To be creative in the situation of the Holocaust, this is also a protest. Each man when he is standing face to face with cruel danger, with death, reacts in his way. The artist reacts with his means. This is his protest! This is my means! He reacts in an artistic way. This is his weapon. He must leave his mark as a mensch on mankind. This, it shows that the Germans could not break his spirit.[1]

(Dr Pnina Rosenberg)


[1] Mary S. Constanza. Living Witness: Art in the Concentration Camps and Ghettos. Free Press, New York, 1982, p.xviii


Beit Thereseinstadt (Thereseinstadt House) archive, Givat Haim-Ihud, Israel.

Alexander Bogen. Revolt. Yad Vashem and Beit Lohamei Haghetaot-Ghetto Fighters' House, 1989.

Janet Blater and Sybil Milton. Art of the Holocaust. Pan Books, London, 1982.

Mary S. Constanza. Living Witness: Art in the Concentration Camps and Ghettos. The Free Press, New York, 1982.

Miriam Novitch, Resistenza Spirituale-Spiritual Resistance 1940-1945: 120 Drawings from Concentration Camps and Ghettos. The Commune of Milan, Milan, 1979.