Fred Veston Paintings
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 Barbara Eugenia Urbach in Poland, in 1947. In 1950, Fred and Barbara moved to Tel Aviv, Israel, where they remained for five years before immigrating to the United States aboard the SS Queen Mary and making their way to Albuquerque, NM. It is in Albuquerque that Fred took up painting--specifically, "Jewish life in the old country," as self described on his business card.
Along with his paintings of Jewish life in the old country, he painted portraits as bar/bat mitzvah gifts for the members of his congregation, B'nai Israel. The collection contains six paintings by Fred Veston. One is a portrait of a young woman lighting candles; it was a gift for her from the artist for her Bat Mitzvah. The second is a framed oil painting of two Russian Jewish men sitting at a table with a Samovar urn and two tea cups on the table. The other four paintings are, "The Burning of Cracow [sic],"; "The Blessing of the Moon,"; "Nine Jewish Faces,"; and, "Two Musicians-Two Dancers."
- c. 1955-1980
- Veston, Fred (1899-1980) (Artist, Person)
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Biographical / Historical
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/Historical Note from USHMM: https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/irn618170
1.75 Linear Feet (1 container)
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