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European Parliament unveils its first Holocaust memorial

The work, unveiled during Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s visit to Brussels, quotes from Yad Vashem’s art collection.

The European Parliament's new Holocaust memorial. Credit: Israeli in Belgium via Twitter.
The European Parliament's new Holocaust memorial. Credit: Israeli in Belgium via Twitter.

The European Parliament building in Brussels now has its first-ever Holocaust memorial—a reproduction of Felix Nussbaum’s 1939 oil painting “The Refugee” from Yad Vashem: The World Holocaust Remembrance Center’s collection.

The work depicts a desperate man slumped over before a table bearing a globe and reflects the Jewish artist’s “fear and desperation on the eve of the Second World War,” according to Yad Vashem. Nussbaum was murdered in Auschwitz in 1944.

A walking stick and bag—evoking historical artistic depictions of the “Wandering Jew”—rest on the floor beside him in the room, “which resembles a jail cell,” according to Yad Vashem. Bare trees loom in the distance.

Ted Deutch, CEO of the American Jewish Committee, recorded a video standing before the copy of the painting, which AJC helped fund. Deutch and a delegation from the committee met with Israeli President Isaac Herzog and parliament members.

Herzog was on hand to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which is observed this year on Friday.

A work by Nussbaum appeared prominently in an exhibition at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., last year. A wall label alongside “Organ Grinder” (1942/3) noted the artist depicted the musician as his own “persona, a stand-in for the itinerant Jew,” with an organ made of bones not pipes. “There is nothing to play,” the gallery stated.

The University of Chicago’s Smart Museum of Art exhibited its two-sided Nussbaum painting in 1998.

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