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Fred and Julia: A family friend becomes the subject of a Holocaust art biography

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When Julie Mayer was growing up in downtown Brooklyn, artist and Holocaust survivor Fred Terna was her parents’ friend, “the old man with the funny accent” often seated at their Passover Seder table with his family.

“He was the old person who was in my sphere,” said Mayer, 31, who would see him most weeks at the Kane Street Synagogue. “I would see him at kiddush and he’d ask me about school.”

Now, Mayer, director of philanthropy at Year Up Greater Boston, a nonprofit that provides workforce development training for young adults, has written “Paint and Resilience, The Life and Art of Fred Terna” (November 2020, JBJ Vision), a biography that tells Terna’s remarkable story of survival, along with reproductions of more than two dozen of Terna’s works photographed by his son Daniel Terna.

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The book is based on some 60 hours of conversations between Terna and Mayer, who, though she wrote a young adult novel in 2011, doesn’t see herself as a writer. Artist Fred Terna on the cover of ‘Painting Resilience: The Life and Art of Fred Terna,’ written by Julia Mayer (Courtesy Daniel Terna)

In the same vein, said Mayer, “I call myself a ‘Fred expert,’ not a Holocaust expert.”

“Painting Resilience: The Life and Art of Fred Terna” weaves together the intense and sometimes bleak messages of his contemporary artworks with his life story. He began sketching as a 16-year-old inmate in Terezin, signing his sketches of crowded bunk beds and........

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