Dr Karel Fleischmann was born in Klatovy (Czechoslovakia) on 22 February 1897. He inherited his artistic ability from his father, who was a lithographer. Fleischmann's father insisted that he acquire a profession in addition to his art and so he studied medicine in Prague, specializing in dermatology. He worked as a doctor in Ceske Budejovice. In addition to his medical studies, Fleischmann also studied painting and drawing. In 1937 he published a series of lithographs and, a multi-talented artist, he also wrote poetry and prose. Fleischmann was one of the founders of the avant-garde art group called "The Line".
Like many Jewish Czech artists, Fleischmann suffered from the race laws during World War II and on 18 April 18 1942 he was interned in Terezin. While there, he held important positions in the medical service, where he tried to ease the suffering of his interned comrades. Despite his exhausting work as a doctor he did not stop painting, drawing and writing poetry in his rare moments of spare time, usually at night. In his poetry and essays - and particularly in his many paintings - he documented the cruel reality of life in the ghetto.
Despite the material limitations - a lack of paper, ink, pencils and colored chalks - Fleischmann succeeded in producing impressive works of deep human value. In his paintings from Terezin - as in those of his comrades Leo Haas, Otto Ungar, Bedrich Frita and others - we can see protest and resistance to the Nazi regime and a warning of the dangers and tragedies inherent in the war and fascism.
Most of his paintings and poetry from Terezin were hidden and saved by his comrades, who succeeded in preventing the Nazis from getting to them.
Fleischmann was transported to Auschwitz on 23 October 1944 and was murdered there. Most of his sketches and paintings and his memoirs from Terezin were donated by his brother to the Jewish Museum in Prague, but his brother also gave a number of Fleischmann's works to Beit Lohamei Haghetaot (the Ghetto Fighters' House Museum).
(Dr Pnina Rosenberg)
Beit Thereseinstadt (Thereseinstadt House) archive, Givat Haim-Ihud, Israel.
Janet Blater and Sybil Milton. Art of the Holocaust. Pan Books, London, 1982.
Mary S. Constanza. Living Witness: Art in the Concentration Camps and Ghettos. The Free Press, New York, 1982.
Gerald Green. The Artists of Terezin. Hawthorn, New York, 1969.
Miriam Novitch. Spiritual Resistance: Art from Concentration Camps 1940-1945 - A selection of drawings and paintings from the collection of Kibbutz Lohamei Haghetaot. Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1981.
Paintngs from Terezin: Bedrich Fritta, Karel Fleischmann, Otto Ungar, Peter Kien. The "Lidice Shall Live" Committee, London, no date.
Sabine Zeitoun and Dominique Foucher (editors). La masque de la barbarie: le ghetto de Thereseinstadt 1941-1945. Preface by Milan Kunda. Centre d'Histoire de la Résistance et de la Déportation, Ville de Lyon, 1998.