Bruno Schulz
(1892–1942)

Bruno Schulz, Cat, 1942, painting on plaster, Collection Drohobych City and Regional Museum, Ukraine
, installation view, Grimmwelt Kassel, Kassel, documenta 14, photo: Liz Eve

The Polish-Jewish author and artist Bruno Schulz spent most of his life in the town of Drohobych, in present-day Ukraine, where he taught drawing in local schools. In 1941 Drohobych fell under Nazi occupation, and Schulz was forced into the Jewish Ghetto. His artistic talents came to the attention of senior SS officer Felix Landau, who oversaw the organization of Jewish labour in the region. At Landau’s orders Schulz carried out a number of works decorating buildings in the town. Among these was a nursery in Landau’s own home, Villa Landau, where he lived with his two children and the SS secretary Gertrude Segel, Landau’s mistress and later his second wife. The wall painting at Villa Landau depicts scenes from the Brothers Grimm fairy tales, and purportedly incorporates likenesses of Landau’s household, as well as of Schulz himself. After the war, Villa Landau was nationalised and inhabited by new tenants, and Schulz’s work was concealed under layers of paint.

In 2001, while working on a film about Schulz, the German filmmaker Benjamin Geissler visited the former Villa Landau and discovered traces of Schulz’s painting in a room that was serving as a pantry. Shortly after the discovery was made public, and with the current tenants’ permission, five wall fragments were removed and transported to Israel, where they are currently kept at Yad Vashem, the international institute for Holocaust research in Jerusalem. Five other fragments of Schulz’s work, discovered at a later date, were removed from the walls, restored, and are now in the collection of Drohobych Museum.

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