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Resistance with a paintbrush: Otto Pankok

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Some fight with swords. Some choose words. To fight his country’s injustices, artist Otto Pankok used chisel and a paint brush.

Pankok was German, born and bred. He grew up in an atmosphere where reigned tolerance and a keen sense of justice. His parents inculcated in him already in his early years the wrong of discrimination because of difference in appearance or custom.

Fate willed it that expressionist artist Otto Pankok live and work in the era of evil, of man’s mass inhumanity to man. He chose to portray, on paper, in wood and stone, in defiance of Nazi law and conduct, Germans who are different — Jews and Gypsies. But also the poor — stricken, the disenfranchised and dehumanized — in short, the undesirable pariahs living on the slippery margin of society. Painting chiefly in charcoal, Pankok sometimes added words within the picture, like, for example, admonishing people not to be cruel to their animals who, after all, are also God’s creatures.

In his cycle, Destiny of the Jews, reported on in a German WDR radio broadcast on February 14, 2009, he is said to have painted, i.a., Else Lasker-Schuler, whom he befriended and even visited in 1933 in Ascona, Switzerland. In this cycle, a synagogue and portraits of Jews in ghettoes also appear.

Hitler’s secret service began to watch Pankok’s every move.

The Gestapo searched his house.

For his monumental Christ’s Passion – 60 large charcoal paintings – Pankok used as models the tormented faces and bodies of the Nazi-dubbed “asocial elements.” His model for a weeping Maria was Ringale, a little gypsy child who later perished in Auschwitz. The message, clear and unambiguous, alarmed the Nazis. Pankok became a thorn for them. He was........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)

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