Paul Sharon - Holocaust Survivor and Painter
Processing his Experiences during the Holocaust with painting

"Yizkor" meaning "to remember"


After helping Rose Sharon, a speaker at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Educational Center with a PowerPoint presentation about her parents, both survivors of the Holocaust, Rose invited myself and Sarah (also ARSP volunteer) to pizza. On the drive to her house, she told us that not only did both of her parents survived the Holocaust, but both of her husband’s parents too. When I heard that, I couldn’t help thinking: Her whole family was persecuted and tortured by Germans, yet she invited us, two Germans, into her home to share her food with us. Despite the generational trauma, she showed us love and appreciation and I am so thankful for that.

When we got to her house, I was astonished. The front reminded me more of an art gallery, than a living room; the walls were full of paintings. Her husband Bruce explained that his father Paul Sharon (née Pinchas Schuldenrein) was an artist, who processed his experiences in the camps by painting. The color scheme was mainly red, black, and white the colors of the Nazi flag and the message was clear: This was hell.

The picture that stuck out to me was “yizkor”, meaning “to remember” in Hebrew (see below). It was painted in 1945 in the DP camp Zeilsheim, right after the liberation. Inside the numbers, it portrays the different stages of the persecution, showing the boycott of Jewish businesses, as well as the concentration camps. However, it ends on a positive note. The menorah is damaged but standing and the Hebrew writings read: School, library and synagogue showing what he believed to be necessary to rebuild. The message: Judaism wasn’t destroyed, it was damaged, and it is bound to rise again, just like the sun in the back of the picture.

 Copies from the picture were made in 1945 and can be seen in museums, like Yad Vashem, that display art pertaining to the Holocaust. The copies retail for several thousand dollars and yet the original is just hanging in their living room, serving as a reminder of their family history and the tragedies that happened.

 The one piece that stuck out between the pictures was a piece of striped fabric with a number stitched on it; it was part of the striped uniform Bruce’s mother wore in Stutthof. It was surreal to see this in their living room, but it is a piece of their family history, and it really illustrates how relevant the Holocaust still is. All that separates us from the Holocaust is one generation!

Text by ARSP volunteer Karlo , 2022 to 2023