Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Sculptures of war (Břetislav Benda 1897 - 1983)

1. Czech sculptor Břetislav Benda
(Left): In his workshop studio (1956)
(Right): With his wife, Bohumila Bendova (1976) 
2. Two postwar sculptures
(By Břetislav Benda, 1948 and 1952)
3. "Victory at Stalingrad"/"Vítězství Stalingradu"
Sketch (left) and figure in bronze (right)
Břetislav Benda, 1943)

4. "Lidice Girl" / "Lidické děvčátko"
(Figure in bronze by Břetislav Benda, 1948)
5. Terezin Deportation Memorial 
[Terezin / Theresienstadt Concentration Camp]
Břetislav Benda, 1968)

Břetislav Benda (Biographical notes)
Born: 28 March 1897 
Birthplace: Líšnice, Austro-Hungarian Empire 
                    (now in the Czech Republic)
Parents: František and Žofie Benda 
Spouse: Bohumila Bendova 
Died: Prague, Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic) 
Date of death: 19 August 1983


Břetislav Benda (1897 - 1983) was a noted 20th Century Czech sculptor and artist, seen in photograph No. 1 in his studio and with his wife, Bohumila Bendova. His elder son, also called Břetislav Benda (born 1925) became a Czechoslovak and Czech electro-technician, academic teacher and a Communist member of the Czechoslovak parliament (1986 - 1989) in the period immediately before the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia. 

Milan Benda (born 6 October 1941), a younger son of the elder Břetislav Benda followed in the footsteps of his famous father to become a highly respected sculptor of international renown. Milan Benda also collaborated with his father on a number of sculptures. Both father and son are primarily known for the study of the female form although some significant works are realisations of individuals or tributes to working craftsman. 

Examples of these are shown in photograph No.2. On the left is a sculpture in bronze by  Břetislav Benda of his wife, Bohumila and son, Milan (1948). On the right is another sculpture in bronze by Břetislav Benda honouring the skilled working man, in this case the 'Miner and Metallurgist' (1952). 

The artistic creation of Břetislav Benda also looked at various aspects of war, especially the Second World War. Examples of these can be seen in photographs No 3 - 5. The remainder of this article concentrates on this aspect of his work.

For additional information click on 'Comments' below. 

"First they came ..." (poem) by Martin Niemöller

1. Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892 - 1984)
2. The 'Star of David' and 'Hammer and Sickle'
3. Catholic church at Oberammergau, Germany

Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892 - 1984)
German Protestant Pastor Martin Niemöller [Photograph No. 1] was at one time a supporter of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. For some, he was even antisemitic. Yet, before WW2 he came to oppose the Nazification of Germany's Protestant churches and especially the Nazis 'Aryan Paragraph'. 

For his open opposition to the Nazi control of Protestant state churches, Pastor Niemöller was imprisoned as a political prisoner by the Nazis, being held in Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps. A survivor of the concentration camp system, Pastor Niemöller perhaps became best known in the post-war years for his poem, "First they came ..." which acknowledges people in Germany, including himself, had not done enough in the early years to oppose Nazism. 

In the English language there are slightly different translations and interpretations of Pastor Martin Niemöller's poem. Regardless of these slight variations, the themes of persecution, guilt and personal responsibility are evident in this poem. Intellectuals who were not Jews, or Communists, or Trade Unionists or Catholics, or other groups the Nazis opposed said and did nothing until it was too late ... 

To read a version of Pastor Martin Niemöller's poem, click on 'Comments'. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

"The Butterfly" (poem) by Pavel Friedman

"Only I never saw another butterfly"
(From 'The Butterfly' by Pavel Friedman)
Do Butterflies live in the ghetto?
Pavel Friedman, Jewish Czechoslovakian poet
Born: Prague, Czechoslovakia, 7 January 1921
Died: Auschwitz concentration camp, 29 September 1944
Pavel Friedman was one of many thousands from the pre-war Jewish community of Czechoslovakia forcibly deported from his home city of Prague firstly to the concentration camp at Terezin (Theresienstadt) and then to Auschwitz. It was at Auschwitz that Pavel Friedman was murdered by the Nazis - yet another victim of the Holocaust. 

While at Terezin concentration camp, on 4 June 1942, Pavel Friiedman wrote a poem, "The Butterfly", on a thin sheet of paper which was discovered after the war and donated to the Jewish Museum at Prague. Published in 1959, "The Butterfly" inspired the Holocaust Museum of Houston, Texas (U.S.A.) to create an exhibition of 1.5 Million paper butterflies, symbolising the number of children who died in the Nazi Holocaust. 

To read an English language translation of Pavel Friedman's poem "The Butterfly" and further information click on 'Comments' below.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Gérard Ménatory, and a life after Mauthuasen

1. Gérard Ménatory talks to some of the wolf pack
Le parc à loups du Gévaudan (July 1988)]
2. Gérard Ménatory feeding a 'friendly' wolf
[Le parc à loups du Gévaudan (July 1988)]
During WW2, Gérard Ménatory (1921 - 1998) was a member of the French Resistance, captured by the Germans in 1944 and deported to Mauthausen concentration camp. Although he was extremely emaciated when liberated from the concentration camp in 1945 he went on to make a good recovery and had an active and fulfilling life before his passing in 1998.

After the war Gérard Ménatory went on to become a journalist with the 'Midi Libre' newspaper. As a naturalist he founded the Gévaudan Wolf Park (in French. 'Le parc à loups du Gévaudan') located at Sainte Lucie, near the town of Marvejols in the Lozère department of southern France. The photographs seen above show Gérard Ménatory feeding some of the 'friendly' semi-wild wolves at the park in July 1988.

Today, there are more than 100 semi-wild wolves living and thriving in the park. The long term survival of these much maligned animals is a fine legacy for Gérard Ménatory to have left the world.

For additional information click on 'Comments' below.