10" x 14"
This series is a graphic depiction of my grandmother’s life. She was born on August 4, 1898 in the Hungarian-speaking town of Kobersdorff, Austria but which then was under Hungarian auspices. Her father was Samuel Zollchein and her mother was Katharina Gela Deutsch. Samuel was a successful Jewish business owner, which was not unusual in Kobersdorff, one of seven communities accepted in 1670 by Paul I Prince of Eszterhazy and Galantha who accepted the Jews that had been expelled from Vienna by Leopold I. I have depicted her life in five panels which are all framed by a thriving cherry tree which slowly gets swallowed by a black shade. The cherry tree symbolizes the beautiful, fruitful life she had and the shade symbolizes the man-made horror that abruptly ended her life.
Ilonka married Eugene Eckstein
(two years her junior) in 1923 in Vienna. They moved to Bratislava where they ran a store selling crystal, china and silverware. The shutter lowers ever
Gela and Ilonka
Gela holds her baby girl named
Helene who’s nickname is Ilonka under the fruit-filled cherry tree which embraces them.
Ilonka reads with her pet dog. The family had a life filled with all the comforts including a small cabin in the mountains for summer retreats to rest from the busy week.
Ilonka loves going to the cherry orchard with her four children. She asks them to sing loudly as they pick cherries to discourage too much cherry eating. The black shutter is lowering on Ilonka’s life. The Nazis have instituted laws revoking the rights of Jews.
Ilonka was taken by the Nazis from the synagogue on Kol Nidre, arguably the holiest of all Jewish nights to Camp Sered, a work camp for Jewish slave labor in Slovakia. On October 19, Helene Eckstein is recorded as arriving to KL Auschwitz-Birkenau. She was tattooed with prisoner number A-25532. Medical records show Helene as being a test subject, injected with unknown substances, dated October 20, October 22, and October 27. Each form is signed by Josef Mengele, the Angel of Death himself. The love-filled and comfortable life of Ilonka ends abruptly with one last document in which she appears alive on November 6,1944. Doubtless, my grandmother spent her last days of life in terrible pain, tortured by whatever unknowns were injected into her. The shutter has come down fully on her life. The cherry tree has been torn from the ground.