The Cold Shower of a New Life: The Postwar Diaries of a Child Survivor, Volume 4 - July 10, 1946–October 21, 1946
Yehuda Bacon, Edited by Sharon Kangisser Cohen and Dorota Julia Nowak
What a life it will be, Jerusalem! I know very well what the wordmeans. Like every association, it spans my entire life. Notebook 8, August 12, 1946; World-renowned Israeli artist and Holocaust survivor Yehuda Bacon began to keep a diary in July 1945, while living in a youth home in Štiřín, Czechoslovakia, shortly after his liberation. During the past seven decades, Bacon has filled over 240 notebooks. His diary is a mosaic of words and drawings through which he attempts to express his past, contemplate his present, and imagine his future. Bacon was born in Moravská Ostrava, Czechoslovakia, and in 1941, at the age of thirteen, he was deported with his family to Theresienstadt. Two years later, he was sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where he was placed in the family camp, and, a few months later, he was among a group of teens selected to work as forced laborers. Bacon survived death marches to Mauthausen and Gunskirchen before he was finally liberated, only to discover that aside from one sister, his entire nuclear family had been murdered. Upon his return to Czechoslovakia, Bacon lived in a provisionary youth asylum close to Prague, run by the humanist Přemysl Pitter. In 1946, Bacon immigrated to Eretz Israel and studied at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, later becoming a professor of graphics and drawing at Bezalel and achieving fame as an artist. These notebooks tell the story of a young survivor exploring his emotional and physical challenges after intense suffering and losses, while discovering his strengths and building a life after the Shoah. The writings reflect the author’s inner dialogue regarding the meaning of his existence, expressing his intimate thoughts as well as his imagined conversations with lost loved ones, contemporaries, and the fellow camp inmates with whom he shared his darkest hours. In this fourth volume, Bacon leaves the agricultural village of Mikveh Yisrael and moves to Jerusalem, embarking on studies at Bezalel. These notebooks trace his efforts to find and make a new home while managing his financial insecurity, vulnerability, and the memories of his traumatic past. He writes these notebooks against the backdrop of the increasingly violent and tense political reality of Jerusalem in 1946. His words, accompanied by sketches, offer documentary evidence of the destruction, his personal world, and his tremendous efforts to create a life of value and meaning.