In 1944 the annihilation of European Jews in Auschwitz reached a new,
horrific climax: from the middle of May more than 440,000 Hungarian Jews
were murdered and burned in the gas chambers and crematoria of Birkenau
within a few months.
But there were trains arriving at Auschwitz from Western Europe as well: on
31 July 1944 in the Belgian city of Mechelen, the German occupying forces
dispatched the last deportation train with Jewish families. This train also
contained the German-Jewish artists Felix Nussbaum and his wife Felka
Platek. They had both been arrested at their hiding place in the Rue
Archimede in Brussels on 20 June 1944 and deported from there to Mechelen
We are telling the story of the artist couple Felka Platek and Felix Nussbaum –
seventy years after their murder in Auschwitz in August 1944.
Felka Platek was born in 1899 in Polish Warsaw, which was under Russian rule at
that time. In the years of Felka Platek’s youth, Warsaw was also a Jewish city: like
the Platek family, 36 per cent of the inhabitants had Jewish roots.
Felka Platek left her home town in the 1920s: she was drawn to the bustling,
scintillating city of Berlin, where she hoped to realize her life’s dream. She wanted to
be an artist.
Whilst studying at the private Lewin-Funcke School, where women and men studied
painting and sculpting together, she met Felix Nussbaum in 1924. He was five years
younger than her and came from a wealthy middle-class German-Jewish family in
Since early childhood, Felix Nussbaum’s father had encouraged his son’s desire to
become an artist. He was confident in himself and in his abilities. He too was hoping
for his artistic breakthrough in Berlin.
The two became a couple. Felka Platek accompanied Felix Nussbaum in 1933,
when he won one of the prestigious artist’s scholarships for the Villa
Massimo in Rome.
After that, both their lives are marked by persecution, distress, fear and poverty,
which led to increasing despair. Their stations of exile took them via Paris and
Ostende to Brussels. From there they were taken on one of the last deportation
trains via Mechelen transit camp to Auschwitz in August 1944. They were murdered
there immediately on arrival.
Today, the world famous works of Felix Nussbaum are on show in his home town of
Osnabrück in the Felix Nussbaum House. The museum building was designed by
the architect Daniel Libeskind.
Information about the artistic work of Felka Platek is still very sparse. Quite wrongly
she stood, and still stands, too much in the shadow of her husband.
Felka Platek and her artistic achievements are also remembered Osnabrück where
several of her works are exhibited.
In our find-felka-find-felix art project we are telling the story of Felka Platek and Felix
Nussbaum in 40 episodes from December 2013 until August 2014: in remembrance
of that, which we have all lost.
Parallel to the growing story of Felka and Felix, pictures by both of the artists will
emerge in the background. At the end of the project these pictures will be presented
as large-format posters on public buildings in Warsaw, Berlin and Brussels.