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Veston, Fred (1899-1980)



  • Existence: 1899 - 1980


Fred Veston (1899-1980, born Feiwel Wetstein) was born in Kraków, Austria-Hungary (now Poland), to Anna and Nathan Wetstein. Fred was the fourth of seven children, he had four brothers and two sisters. Nathan was a merchant and Anna stayed home to take care of the family. They were a conservative family, Fred attended cheder, Nathan took the boys to shul, they kept kosher, and the kids would sing together on Friday evenings while the neighbors would come and listen. Fred went to school until they were converted to serve as hospitals during World War I. Fred’s older brothers worked at his father’s store, but joined the army at the outset of World War I. After the conclusion of the war, they became jewelers. During the war, Fred began a jeweler’s apprenticeship. Fred was not involved in politics, but was a Zionist, and was involved in a Zionist organization. In 1922, Fred married Rella (or Regina) in Kraków. Later he was able to establish his own jewelry store. Fred fashioned gold and silver handmade jewelry, and he bought and sold antique jewelry to museums and synagogues in Kraków. In 1930, Fred’s mother Anna died unexpectedly, she was 59. In the 1930’s Fred’s youngest brother moved to England. By 1939, Fred and his wife had two daughters and they lived in a small apartment.

When Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, Fred was on the road for business, but he came home immediately. Kraków was occupied by German forces within a week of the invasion. The German military authorities initiated immediate measures aimed at isolating, exploiting, and persecuting the Jews of the city. When he returned home, Fred found that the Germans had taken his store, the family’s apartment, and all of their valuables. He witnessed the Germans paving roads with Jewish tombstones. Fred also learned the Germans discovered he was a dealer in Jewish jewelry and were searching for him. Upon learning of Fred’s plight, his neighbor, a Catholic priest, offered to take care of his wife and daughters while Fred escaped. Fred fled Kraków with two of his brothers and two brothers-in-law. The five of them left with a group of twenty seven Jews.

The roads were full of people fleeing the Nazi terror. Fred was able to bring some gold with him to aid with his new life in hiding. Fred headed east, but his brothers and brothers-in-law decided to return to Kraków to be with their families. While he was gone, the priest hid Fred’s wife and daughters in a small town outside the city. Fred kept on the move constantly, going from place to place and house to house, refusing to sleep in the same place twice. He sold his bits of gold for loaves of bread. He went east until he reached Lemberg (now Lviv, Ukraine) which he found occupied by the Germans and the situation for Jews was no better. Fred then made his way to south western Poland, where he found refuge in the Tatra Mountains, a wilderness area along the Czechoslovakia-Poland border where Polish partisan groups continued fighting the German forces. Many Jewish refugees also fled there for protection. They hid together in handmade underground bunkers in the woods, under the shadow of the mountains.

In the fall of 1942, the Nazis found Fred’s wife and children in hiding and transported them to Auschwitz concentration camp where they were killed. In 1943, Fred’s 77 year old father, Nathan and other Jewish prisoners were forced to dig a mass grave and then executed. All of Fred’s family that remained or returned to Kraków were caught and killed with the exception of two sisters-in-law and three nieces. Overall 72 of Fred’s close and extended family were killed in the Holocaust.

Fred remained in the Tatra Mountains until Poland was liberated in 1945. After the war he suffered from kidney, bladder, and gall bladder stones, and heart trouble because of what he endured. It took ten years and three surgeries for Fred to regain his health. In 1947, Fred married Barbara Eugenia Urbach (1907-1995), a friend of his younger sister and a fellow survivor. She managed to live in hiding as an Irish Catholic with fake identity papers she bought. Fred and Barbara left Poland in 1950, and moved to Tel Aviv, Israel, for five years. In 1955, they immigrated to the United States aboard the SS Queen Mary, settled in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Americanized their names. After coming to the U.S. Fred continued to work as a jeweler and took up painting. He created scenes from his prewar life in Kraków and images of the Holocaust. Fred exhibited his paintings at the University of Judaism, shared his experiences with students at the University of Albuquerque, and gave interviews with news stations.

Bio from United States Holocaust Memorial Museum:

Found in 8 Collections and/or Records:

Box 2: Paintings, c. 1960 - 1979

 File — Box B362.0002: Series B362.01 [Barcode: U186023299369]
Identifier: B362.01.0002

This box contains four (4) paintings by Fred Veston. They are titled, "The Burning of Cracow [sic]"; "The Blessing of the Moon"; "Nine Jewish Faces"; and, "Two Musicians-Two Dancers." Three (3) of the paintings are oil on canvas (Burning of Cracow, Blessing of the Moon, and Two Musicians-Two Dancers). The fourth painting, Nine Jewish Faces, is a black ink watercolor.

Dates: c. 1960 - 1979

Fred Veston Paintings

Identifier: B362
Abstract Fred Veston (1899-1980) was born in Kraków, Austria-Hungary (now Poland) and survived the Holocaust by fleeing east, until reaching Lemberg (now Lviv, Ukraine). Seeing it was no better than Kraków. He then made his way to south western Poland and the Tatra Mountains, where Polish partisan groups continued to fight the German forces. He remained in the mountains until the end of the war in 1945. Overall 72 of Fred’s close and extended family were killed in the Holocaust. Fred married...
Dates: c. 1955-1980

Nine Jewish Faces, c. 1960 - 1979

Identifier: B362.01.0002.00003

This painting is titled Nine Jewish Faces. It is a black, dry brush, watercolor on paper. It measures approximately 24" x 18". In line with his other paintings, Veston did not date the painting, though it can be assumed that it was created while living in Albuquerque--between 1955 and 1980.

Dates: c. 1960 - 1979

Painting of Jewish Men with Samovar, c. 1955-1980

Identifier: B362.01.0001.00002

Framed oil painting of two Russian Jewish men sitting at a table with a Samovar urn and two tea cups on the table. Both men wear coats, hats and have full beards. The painting is done in sepia tones with artist signature in the bottom right corner.

Dates: c. 1955-1980

Painting of Leslie Stark Doherty, 1979

Identifier: B362.01.0001.00001

Small painting of woman with white scarf and blue shirt (Leslie Stark Doherty) lighting the shabbas candles with the covered bread and wine on the table; painted by Fred Veston. Painting appears to be done in watercolor and oil crayons. The painting was a gift for Leslie from the artist for her Bat Mitzvah. Veston created a small painting as a gift for every Bar or Bat Mitzvah for the members of Congregation B'nai Israel.

Dates: 1979

The Blessing of the Moon, c. 1960 - 1979

Identifier: B362.01.0002.00002

This painting is entitled The Blessing of the Moon. It measures approximately 24" x 18" and is oil on canvas board. The image depicts Kracow at night under a starry sky and bright moon. The image is of the same street/area of his other painting, "The Burning of Cracow." In line with his other paintings, Veston did not date the painting, though it can be assumed that it was created while living in Albuquerque--between 1955 and 1980.

Dates: c. 1960 - 1979

The Burning of Cracow, c. 1960 - 1979

Identifier: B362.01.0002.00001
Abstract "The Burning of Cracow [sic]" is oil on canvas board. Measuring approximately 30" x 22", the image depicts the destruction/burning of Kraków. The image is a cityscape with the buildings, including a synagogue and hotel, on fire. There are Jews huddled in the streets with luggage and a couple of men rescuing Torahs from the burning synagogue. In line with his other paintings, Veston did not date the painting, though it can be assumed that it was created while living in Albuquerque--between...
Dates: c. 1960 - 1979

Two Musicians-Two Dancers, c. 1960 - 1979

Identifier: B362.01.0002.00004

This painting is titled Two Musicians-Two Dancers. It is oil on canvas board. The painting depicts two Jewish musicians and two Jewish dancers. The painting measures approximately 16" x 12".In line with his other paintings, Veston did not date the painting, though it can be assumed that it was created while living in Albuquerque--between 1955 and 1980.

Dates: c. 1960 - 1979

Additional filters:

Archival Object 7
Collection 1
Hasidim 5
Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945) 5
Jews 5
Jews--Persecutions--Poland--Kraków 5
Poland 5