Mystery of Dachauauthor: Edward Pinkowski, Copper City, Florida
This story appeared in: The Post Eagle, Dec. 19, 2007, pp. 19-20.
Although Michael Porulski never came to the United States, tracking him down to fill in missing pieces of history began in the states, extended to Germany, and petered out in Poland and England.
On September 23, 2007 the Times Herald of Norristown, PA, carried only half of the story of the hunt for the Polish artist of the notorious Nazi camp at Dachau, where hundreds of Jews, Poles, and others died daily, and referred readers to its website for more of this story. This is the other half, no ifs, ands, and buts.
The search for the next chapter led me to the website of USA-Today, which has the largest circulation of any newspaper in the United States. It averages 2.25 million copies a day and is printed in multiple locations. Whether the story of Michael Porulski appeared in all editions is uncertain.
Before the newspapers heard about the Polish artist, Shari Klages, who now lives in Coral Springs, Florida, wanted to find who drew the pictures in an album that her father, Arthur Unger, started at Dachau after it was liberated by the American Army on April 14, 1945. Unger, who lost his parents and a sibling when the Nazis murdered them in Krakow, Poland, where they owned a prosperous furniture store, brought the album to the United States on Jan. 16, 1947, when he was 17 years old.
In an interview with the Newark Evening News, Unger said he escaped from three Nazi death camps but was always recaptured. Another time he was on the way to a gas chamber with 50 other prisoners when the guards heard that most of them were electricians, whom they needed to do work, and spared the entire group.
When Unger took his own life in 1972, his four children took turns keeping the album. From its appearance, the Unger family thought that the father used the leather of a Nazi soldier's uniform to make the album covers. After filling thirty pages with Porulski's sketches, he added 258 photographs of Nazi genocide at Dachau, and snapshots of himself with Polish refugees and American soldiers. For the first time in 2005, Shari Klages, who was eleven when her father died, showed the thick leather-bound album to Avi Hoffman; executive director of the National Center for Jewish Cultural Arts in Boca Raton, Florida, and Michael Berenbaum, of the American Jewish University in Los Angeles.
VISIT TO NAZI ARCHIVE
Later, in August of 2007, they traveled to the central German town of Bad Arolsen, where the government had just opened the largest archive of Nazi documents in the world. All wanted to see if they could find more paintings by Porulski. As they soon learned, Porulski, who was arrested in June 1940, and Unger, who was born Dec. 21, 1929, did not know each other at Dachau, where they were prisoners of war.
Dachau, about 10 miles north-west of Munich in southern Germany, was the first camp that Hitler set up for political prisoners. Throughout the war, the Gestapo rounded up more than 200,000 prisoners; one third of them Jews, and locked them up at Dachau. Polish priests were the first of 24,613 prisoners to die. It is not inconceivable that Porulski did a lot of drawing at Dachau out of the view of the guards, and some of it is still undiscovered.
Until 2006, the documents at Bad Arolsen have been used to trace, missing persons, verify claims, and deport immigrants who lied about their Nazi ties. In the archive, for example, the U.S. government found evidence that John Demjaniuk, an auto worker in Cleveland, had been a Nazi camp guard at Treblinka. Previously, the Germans did not allow survivors and historians of the Holocaust to see the 47 million pages of documents.
The searchers from Florida visited the Nazi archive with Arthur Max, an Associated Press reporter who had written lengthy stories on old camp records, and pulled out the Unger album.
"It's amazing after so many years that these kind of documents still turn up," Barbara Distel, the director of the Dachau memorial site, told Max, and was unaware of other paintings of Dachau to match those in the album. "It's a unique artifact."
Berenbaum noted, "I've seen two or three pieces of Holocaust artwork, but never 30."
The only clue that Michael (in Polish without the "e") Porulski was the creator of the Dachau paintings was his signature on the bottom of the watercolors. It is not likely that Porulski was the original spelling, for no person in Poland had the same spelling in 1990. It was probably Parulski, which is derived from the Polish word for countersign or passport, and matched by 10 persons in the United States in 1930 and 575 in Poland in 1990.
Due to the artist's name, Arthur Max asked his colleagues in the Warsaw bureau of The Associated Press to do some research in Poland, and Monika Scislowska joined the team. All of a sudden the Polish artist of Dachau came back to life.
As Mrs. Scislowska-Sakowicz discovered, the artist was born June 20, 1910, the son of a farmer in Rychwal of 2,367 inhabitants in Konin County, Greater Poland voivodship. After finishing high school and two years of military service, he sent an application, with a photo of himself for admission to the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts. He graduated from there in 1934. When German troops invaded Warsaw, he was arrested for painting military scenes on post cards and selling them to buy a loaf of bread. The records of Dachau show that he moved in May of 1941. He spent the time in between at Auschwitz and Neuengamme.
After the war, Porulski, still in his thirties, sailed to Australia and tried to earn a living as a painter and decorator. He was unable to do so because of all those years in the Nazi camps. He moved to England in 1963 and later to France. In the 1970s he lived several months in Gdynia with one sister, Janina Krol, who loaned him money to go to England, where he wanted to look for work. He was robbed of his money and passport. Nevertheless, he ended up in Hereford, a city in the West Midlands of England, close to the Welsh border, where he painted the bridges over the Wye River and was laid off. He ran out of money and could not afford to rent a room. He was homeless and slept on park benches until he caught pneumonia in 1989 and died in St. Mary's hospital near Hereford.
On the other end, on January 3, 1947, Arnold Unger, with the Dachau album safely tucked away in his luggage, boarded the S.S. Ernie Pyle in Bremen, Germany, and sailed with more than 2,000 displaced persons to New York. Until he started college, he lived with an uncle in South Orange, New Jersey.
After earning an engineering degree, Unger moved with his wife, Ruth, into a one-family detached family home, with a garage, at Parsippany, one of the most populous municipalities of Morris County, New Jersey, and hid the Dachau album in his bedroom closet. Like Porulski's sister, who threw away some of his paintings of Dachau because she couldn't look at them, Unger didn't talk to his children about Porulski's drawings in the album.
Times have changed. Dachau holds a significant place in the history of the Holocaust. For one thing, what remains of it are Porulski's paintings. Hopefully, in the near future, the legacy of Shari Klages, who allowed historians of the Holocaust and reporters to see the Dachau album 35 years after her father died, will be seen again, whether in a documentary, a museum, or a home. The same goes for the paintings that the artist's sister saved in Poland. They will always have value wherever they are seen.
lebron 12 lululemon cyber monday north face black friday lululemon cyber monday uggs cyber monday coach black friday north face black friday michael kors cyber monday jordan 13 black infrared 23 uggs cyber monday north face black friday jordan 13 black infrared 23 north face black friday coach cyber monday beats by dre cyber monday north face black friday beats by dre cheap legend blue 11s michael kors cyber monday coach cyber monday jordan 13 grey toe lebron 12 uggs black friday beats by dre black friday jordan 11 legend blue jordan 6 black infrared beats by dre cyber monday uggs cyber monday uggs cyber monday uggs cyber monday beats by dre cyber Monday coach cyber monday michael kors cyber monday uggs black friday jordan 13 grey toe michael kors cyber monday michael kors cyber monday north face cyber monday uggs cyber monday uggs black friday michael kors cyber monday grey toe 13s michael kors cyber monday jordan 11 legend blue legend blue 11s beats by dre black friday michael kors cyber monday barons 13s beats by dre cyber monday michael kors black friday north face cyber monday bred 13s legend blue 11s north face black friday north face black friday lululemon cyber monday michael kors cyber monday beats by dre black friday louis vuitton outlet beats by dre cyber Monday jordan 11 legend blue jordan 11 legend blue michael kors black friday legend blue 11s black infrared 6s coach black friday uggs black friday legend blue 11s jordan 6 black infrared legend blue 11s north face cyber monday louis vuitton outlet beats by dre black friday beats by dre cyber monday jordan 6 black infrared barons 13s jordan 6 black infrared grey toe 13s michael kors black friday legend blue 11s jordan 6 black infrared jordan 11 legend blue michael kors cyber monday coach black friday beats by dre cheap louis vuitton outlet north face cyber monday uggs cyber monday michael kors black friday beats by dre black friday jordan 11 legend blue coach cyber monday north face cyber monday michael kors black friday beats by dre black friday black infrared 6s uggs black friday beats by dre cyber monday michael kors outlet beats by dre cyber Monday north face cyber monday grey toe 13s beats by dre black friday lululemon cyber monday michael kors black friday michael kors black friday michael kors black friday uggs cyber monday legend blue 11s black infrared 6s lululemon black friday jordan 13 barons black infrared 6s black infrared 6s coach black friday michael kors black friday uggs cyber monday coach black friday barons 13s black infrared 6s