Savely Schleifer was born in Odessa on 30 September 1881. He studied art at the Odessa Academy of Art, continuing later in St Petersburg. His works were widely acclaimed and exhibited throughout Russia. In 1905, when he was 24 years old, he shifted to Paris, building up a serious reputation as an artist. Two years later he returned to St Petersburg working as a scenery designer for the Trotsky Theater.
With the outbreak of the First World War, Schleifer enlisted in the army, joining the "Camouflage Brigade" along with several other artists. Their task was to mislead the enemy. After the war he returned to Leningrad, teaching at the Academy of Fine Arts and designing costumes for the film industry. In 1927 Schleifer and his wife emmigrated to Paris, where he continued to paint and exhibit and to work in films.
On 22 June 1941, one day after Germany declared war on Russia, Schleifer was arrested as an enemy alien and interned in Compiègne. On 5 September 1942 he was transferred to Drancy and on the 14 of that month he was deported to the East to his death.
While in Compiègne Schleifer continued to paint, especially still lifes and scenes of the camp. He also painted a portrait of his fellow artist Isis Kischka (view this work) and a humorous painting advertising an art exhibition in the camp (view work). Kischka kept Schleifer's works safe and, after the war, donated some of them to the art collection of Beit Lohamei Haghetaot (Ghetto Fighters' House Museum).
(Dr Pnina Rosenberg)
Hirsh Fenster. Undzere Farpainikte Kinstler (Nos artistes martyrs). Published by the author, Paris, 1951.
Miriam Novitch. Spiritual Resistance – 120 Drawings from Concentration Camps and Ghettos 1940-1945. The Commune of Milan, Milan, 1979.
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.