An exhibition “The Nazi occupation in the graphic works by Meer Axelrod” opened on February 27 in Zagreb, with participation of the Mayor of Zagreb, Milan Bandic, the ambassador of Russia to Croatia, Anvar Azimov, the ambassador of Kazakhstan to Croatia, Tolezhan Barlybaev, the chairman of the Alexander Pechersky Foundation, Ilya Vasiliev, the dean of the Zagreb Academy of Fine Arts, Tomislav Buntak, representatives of Croatian government and the diplomatic corps.
This is the first time Meer Axelrod’s works exhibited in Croatia, and the Croatian audience is introduced to about 30 paintings and graphic works from the Meer Axelrod series “The Nazi occupation” created in 1942-1943 in Alma-Ata, where the artist worked on the sets for Sergei Eisenstein’s film “Ivan the Terrible”. Until very recently, even the specialists were not aware of the existence of the series: the works were stored in the archives of the artist’s family and were never displayed together.
In the Soviet period, Meer Axelrod was deleted from official artistic life. However, for almost half a century, the artist continued creating paintings about Jewish life and the tragic fate of Jews who died in the pogroms and during the Holocaust.
The honorary guest of the ceremony, the grandson of Meer Axelrod, artist Mikhail Yakhilevich said: “Meer Axelrod began to create works on the Holocaust during the war and continued working on this theme until his death. This series was never exhibited during the artist’s lifetime since in the Soviet Union it was not allowed to single out the Jewish tragedy. It is significant that the exhibition, organized by the Russian Pechersky Foundation and supported by the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, is being held in Croatia, a country where almost the entire Jewish population has perished.”
The exhibited works reflect not only the horrors of life during the Nazi occupation but also the mass resistance movement, the exploits of partisans and underground workers. Of particular interest is the only lifetime portrait of Alexander Pechersky, leader of the legendary uprising in the Nazi death camp Sobibor.
Ilya Vasiliev, curator of the exhibition, head of the Alexander Pechersky Foundation: “Artworks by Meer Axelrod could serve at the Nuremberg Trials as evidence of the mass extermination of civilians, including almost three million of the Soviet Jews.”
“I want to thank the Russian Embassy in Croatia, the Alexander Pechersky Foundation, and the Academy of Fine Arts for their blessed cooperation, which culminated in the opening of the important exhibition of Meer Axelrod in Croatia. Axelrod managed to convey to us the evidence of many Jewish tragedies, from pogroms to the Holocaust. This exhibition is certainly one of his great creations,” said Rabbi Prof. Kotel DaDon, Chief Rabbi of The Bet Israel Jewish Community of Croatia.
The exhibition is a joint project by the Russian Embassy in Croatia, the Rossotrudnichestvo Representation in Croatia, the Alexander Pechersky Foundation, the Zagreb Academy of Fine Arts, and the Shira Gallery, with the participation of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress.