Written down by Boris Lurie for the period 1924 to 1946
1924 | born July 18, USSR, Leningrad (Tolstoy Square, Kamennyi Zedrov).
1925-26 | moved to Riga, Latvia.
1930-31 | Studies at the Riga German-language Jewish Ezra School.
1934-35 | Active as an organizer in Jewish sports clubs Nakkabi and Hazair (after its banning after the fascist coup in 1934, under the name Haolim).
1935 | Sighting of a poster of French modern art with an image of Marc Chagall's painting "Flying Jew over Witebek".
1939 | Dropped out of the left-wing Zionist movement Kashomer Hazair, one of the last two in the class (caused by boys' interest in girls ...).
Trip to Italy, where my sister was married. Un-impressed in general at Rennaisance art, specifically at Veronese.
Short stay in Berlin with acquaintances of my parents, on the way there and back.
Returned to Riga one day before the outbreak of war.
1940 | Latvia becomes first a democratic republic, then a Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic.
The language of instruction at school becomes Russian. Private school becomes a state school. - Before, in 1934, after the fascist coup, the language of instruction was changed from German to Latvian.
Illustration work for magazine and book covers for Jewish publishing house of the communist party; very well paid.
Elected on an "anti-Soviet ticket" as a class valedictorian, thus, after a defense speech for a fellow student who was to be expelled (Bubi Fried), since I did the opposite, was dismissed from my post myself.
1941 | About 2 weeks before the outbreak of war, resettlement of about 10,000 people in forced residence and gulags to Siberia, where most of the small businessmen and the real Natioanal-Latvians and fascists were mostly missed (who shot at the retreating Soviets and committed atrocities after the invasion of the Germans and even before).
July 1 : Riga is occupied by German troops. At the same time the beginning of the terror wave, carried out by Latvian partisans and police. We were spared because the Wehrmacht confiscated our house and apartment for German Wehrmacht members (by suggestion of a neighbor who recognized a former Baltic German officer and advocated that German officers be placed in the Jewish apartments as "tenants" - which saved us from Latvian police and terror). Before that the apartment was robbed several times by Latvian police, but fortunately no arrests took place.
After July 1: a few days of forced labor in the Riga export harbor and at a Wehrmacht propaganda unit.
Septembe r: Moved to the Riga ghetto, 37 Ludzas Street.
November 27: Resettlement of father and me to the "Small Ghetto", i.e. Labor Ghetto.
November 28 and December 8 : The 2 "big actions". My younger sister Jeanna, my mother and my grandmother were killed. Also my great childhood sweetheart and schoolmate Lyuba Treskunova.
Work in the Riga export port, then at the Wehrmacht quarter office, first on Turmstrasse, then Freiheitsstrasse, then Export Strasse. On Liberty Street I work as a sign painter and paint large-scale murals in the canteen.
December : All my youthful art works are left in the old apartment in the big ghetto.
1943 | October | The barracking at the Wehrmacht Quarter Office is dissolved and we are sent back to the Labor Ghetto. Immediately afterwards all ghettos (including the Reich Jew ghetto) are liquidated. By a miracle we manage to get there during the selection for the SD-Werkstaetten Lenta (by Fritz Scherwitz). (It is the best of all barracks and of the from then on concentration camp Kaiserwald acting as center).
1943-44 | Worked at Lenta as a carpenter and then in the gardener's shop and then again as a carpenter (after my father learned that I was engaged in sneaking under the fence and when bringing the cows to the meadow).
1944 | September : The Red Army is already close to Riga. The best craftsmen were selected and transported first to Libau, there and later in North German KaZets most of them perished; we were marched off to the famous KaZet Salaspils (about 8 kilometers from Riga) and Fritz Scherwitz promised to pick us up again from there in 8 days. We were kept separately and well fed (not subject to camp discipline). In fact, Scherwitz also came and picked us up. The Salaspils camp was just where all the executions were carried out. I suspect that we were de facto hostage and Scherwitz negotiated that if a German counteroffensive would beat off the Soviets (from Mitau), he could keep us back, but only in this case.
September: Scherwitz promised that the Lenta factories together with the remaining people would be completely transferred to Konitz, East Prussia. He had, but he could not keep it. We were put on a steamer with other prisoners from KaZet-Kaiserwald. Terrible journey to Danzig and then by barge to KaZet-Stutthof.
1944 | September-October | In Stutthof - The Italian diplomat Aldo Caradello, whom my father somehow located, himself an "Ehrenhaeftling", helped me to escape from work and also helped with food. He learned that a transport was leaving for Magdeburg-Buchenwald and advised that we should definitely join it.
Personal concentration camp number of Boris Lurie
October: In Polte-Werke, satellite camp of Buchenwald in Magdeburg. The work is long, there is no possibility to get additional provisions and one slowly starves. However, one is protected from the cold in the factory and the treatment is relatively good, if one does not commit any crime. My father had the misfortune to work in the worst department, the bonding department, and he was already 51 years old. I asked my foreman, who wore an NSDAP badge, to transfer him to me in the grinding shop - which he did. Later, at Christmas, there were miraculously bonuses for the best workers - half a box of tobacco. My father convinced the chief engineer that he was once "a big industrialist" and he put my father's name on the list. Half a box of tobacco was a fortune and one could live on it for many days.
November-December: air raids, the whole city seems to be destroyed (2 big raids) but the big factory remains unharmed, although there is a fire just outside.
1945 | January: The factory does not work anymore, because there is no more raw material access. We have to go to the city to sort out the ruins ... which can hardly be done by starving people. But there we find provisions in the spared cellars, that helped us to hold out, although it was connected with threatened death penalty.
Great danger when bringing provisions, mainly potatoes (also baked by the fires). I escape by a miracle (or cunning?) an inspection by the camp commander Hoffmann. Hoffmann is a pure-sadistic killer.
April 8 (?) While marching back from the Ruienen-Aufraeumungsarbeiten, in the middle of the city, our SS guard escapes. It is supposed to be freedom. The prisoners lift into the air an elderly SS guard, who was good! - This was their first act as free men, which they thought they were! I did not take part in it! I and a new-found friend (our fathers were already in the "barrack" because they were too weak to work) went back to the camp. There we did not find our fathers. On the way we met SS Hoffmann and Kapos, who were pushing the goods of the SS onto carts, and I was stupid enough to talk to Hoffmann to find out what had happened to the people in the barracks. Hoffmann, revolver in one hand and bottle of beer in the other, said to me "come along my boy, we all want to get away from the Americans!" So one is quite crazy to approach the killer. One day later, or the same day, in the evening, my new-found friend Ljova Kalika (Leon Kollins) told me that the "celebrities" of the prisoners did not stay in the camp, but went to the factory area to stay there in the "black shed". (That was just when I was getting rid of myself in the trench ...) and I told him, "we are going there too". The "notables" (Kapos & Werkstubenleiter) with their girl-friends were sitting there in a warm heated room - but they didn't let us in (class differences prevailed even after the "liberation"! ) At night it got cold and we crawled into a box under a truck trailer, which started to move, so that we jumped out: a group of Luftwaffe soldiers, they left us alone, when we told them we were "foreign workers" & could not return to our accommodation in time because of the closing time. - The good fortune in all this & what follows was that we were not wearing striped prisoner's clothes & lumps of wood; somehow we were not equipped with such at Stutthof.
April 8-18: In the morning we noticed that the camp was completely emptied ... as if after an "action" with clothes, shoes, etc. on the terrain. From then on we were (legalistically) escaped prisoners. We went into the bombed out city, where we hid in cellars & elsewhere. Several times we were chased by the police (my friend was caught and held in the police station, but eventually let go, which I learned only about 10 years later). Once I was almost caught by a policeman who came up the stairs where I was hiding, but just before he could catch sight of me, he turned around and went down the stairs again. The police came at the suggestion of the civilians who phoned them (whether they thought we were paratroopers, or simply because we had to loot food goods in the cellars). There were no war events, everything was dead silent. After a few attempts to run away from my hiding place to a "safe place" ("Hospital St. Theresa") I was almost caught. Then I crawled back to my hiding place in the top corridor of a bombed-out house (which would be the most unsafe place logically) and lay down under a marital bed and slept for a few days, was woken up by an air bombardment, only one-two American planes dropping bombs on the bombed-out houses, everything around was burning - but my house was not hit. On April 18 in the morning I heard voices from the language, which were not German, at first I thought it was some German auxiliary troops - but it was the first Americans, a small group of infantry only. Since I did not know whether they would take me and if not my hiding place would be revealed, I did not go down to them. And the Americans disappeared. Then I thought that I had missed my opportunity - it took 2 hours for the first jeeps and armored cars to arrive. Then I went down to where the tanks were parked & shook the hand of an older American who was preparing his coffee on the tank & told him I was a Russian prisoner & he said that this would never happen again ... I was already quite shaky & started on my way back to the camp, when a GI shot at me from a passing American truck column, but shot past ...
April 18 & on: My father was not in the camp. I was ill or so tired that I slept for a few days. I was woken up by my father, who was beautifully dressed and blamed me for being so stupid that I could not find out his new address in the city ... (and it was precisely because of him that we returned to the camp after the false liberation to find the fathers, otherwise we would have hid right away in the city ...). My father had a completely different experience after the "false" liberation" (April 8): there was supposedly an air raid & my father went to an air-raid shelter in the city; there was police control, but he told the policemen he was a Russian foreign worker & they believed him; a German he met in the air-raid shelter offered my father to hide him, which he did - and so the liberation came to my father quite pleasantly! Just the opposite of what I had to go through as an escaped prisoner! My father was already living in a good apartment, from which a Nazi had escaped, was nicely dressed and was served by the janitor's wife. He already had a job of distributing wine rations to Russian prisoners of war (who had previously smashed the wine warehouse and gotten drunk) and could exchange his share of wine with the young Russians, who obeyed him, for provisions stolen by those from the German peasants.
End of April: resettlement to the DP camp Hillersleben, not far from Magdeburg. A typhus epidemic broke out, brought in by the liberated Hungarian refugees & the DP camp was quarantined. Suddenly an American officer appeared. My Italian brother-in-law Dino Russi, who was an agent of the C.I.C. and took us out of the camp semi-legally (but under the barbed wire). From there we went to Rudolstadt in Thuringia and later to Bad-Orb in Oberhessen, later to Hanau (near Frankfurt) and then to Buedingen, Oberhessen and I worked as an interpreter and investigator with the C.I.C.
At the end of the year I was dismissed from the C.I.C. (because I and another Dutch employee went to the cinema in the evening & there were no more tickets & and we then said that we were from the C.I.C. & were let in immediately ... but the next morning we were taught that we had to keep our identity secret - and therefore we would be dismissed ...) But I got a high position as "chief" of the information service in a POW camp in Babenhausen, where more than 10,000 POWs were interned.
1946 | June : Resettlement to New York, through Bremerhafen. Two Jewish Kapos, the German Jews Klaus Solomon and Kurt ...., came to the Bremerhafen transit camp for a visit and I notified the C.I.C., who came to the transport camp to investigate - but the Jewish ex-convicts refused to testify against them.
June 18: Reached New York after 12-day trip on troopship ("Marine Flasher").
Boris Lurie (July 18, 1924 – January 7, 2008)
He was an American artist and writer. He co-founded the NO!Art movement which calls for art leading to social action. His controversial work, often related to the Holocaust, has frequently irritated critics and curators and has sold poorly.
Though he lived as a penniless artisit, Lurie amassed $80 million by buying penny stocks and real estate which he left to create the Boris Lurie Art Foundation.
Lurie was born in Leningrad into a Jewish family and grew up in Riga. From 1941 to 1945 he was imprisoned in German concentration camps; his mother, grandmother and sister were killed by the Nazis.
In 1946 he came to New York and produced several figurative paintings processing his wartime memories. One of his best known and most controversial works is "Railroad Collage" (1959), a collage of two photographs showing a pin-up girl undressing in the midst of corpses of gas chamber victims on a flatcar. He continued with several etchings, sculptures and paintings, often with Holocaust or death themes.
In 1960 he founded the NO!art movement together with Sam Goodman and Stanley Fisher, out of a sense of disillusionment with the contemporary art scene. The goal was to have art address the disconcerting truths: racism, imperialism, sexism, colonialism, depravity.
The movement favors "totally unabashed self-expression leading to social action" and is opposed to the worldwide capitalist "investment art market", to pop-art that celebrates consumerism and to decorative "salon art" such as abstract expressionism. Lurie's art and the NO!Art movement were largely ignored by the establishment, and in 1970 Lurie wrote his critique "MOMA as Manipulator."
One of the movement's earliest champions was the Italian art dealer, Arturo Schwarz, and New York gallerist, Gertrude Stein
Pieces by Lurie are now contained in the permanent collections of the National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.) and the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA; NYC). In 2001, the NO!Art movement was subject of a retrospective at the University of Chicago, the University of Nebraska and at the Whitney Museum of American Art (NYC).
In 2002, Amikam Goldman completed a documentary on Boris Lurie entitled No!Art Man, which was premiered at the Anthology Film Archives with Mr. Lurie present.
Lurie's art has found more resonance in Germany than in the United States. Germany saw two large exhibitions of his work in 1995 and 2004. A documentary, Shoah and Pin-Ups: The NO!-Artist Boris Lurie, was shown on German TV in 2007.
On January 7th, 2008, Lurie died from kidney failure, days after having suffered a stroke. At age 83, he was the last surviving founder of the NO!Art movement.
Since 1999 the NO!Art Movement is led by ►Dietmar Kirves (headquarters Berlin), and ►Clayton Patterson (headquarters New York).
Members are: Rocco Armento, Isser Aronovici (t), Enrico Baj (t), Paolo Baratella, Herb Brown, Ronaldo Brunet, Guenter Brus, Al D'Arcangelo (t), Aleksey Dayen, Frank-Kirk Ehm-Marks, Erro (Ferro), Klaus Fabricius, Charles Gatewood, Paul Georges (t), Jochen Gerz, Dorothie Gillespie, Esther Morgenstern Gilman (t), Amikam Goldman, Leon Golub (t), Blalla W. Hallmann (t), Harry Hass, Allan Kaprow (t), Kommissar Hjuler (Detlev Hjuler) and Mama Baer (Andrea Katharina Ingeborg Hjuler), Yayoi Kusama, Konstantin K. Kuzminsky, Jean-Jacques Lebel, Suzanne Long (Harriet Wood), LST, Enzo Mastrangelo, Stu Mead, Peter Meseck, Lil Picard (t), Leonid Pinchevsky, Bernard Rancillac, Francis Salles, Naomi Tereza Salmon, Reinhard Scheibner, Bruno Schleinstein (t), Dominik Stahlberg, Michelle Stuart, Aldo Tambellini, Seth Tobocman, Jean Toche, Toyo Tsuchiya, Wolf Vostell (t), Friedrich Wall, Mathilda Wolf, Natalia E. Woytasik, Miron Zownir
Eleven files correspondence with Boris Lurie 1978-2005 and thirteen files
with work documents in the archives at NO!art headquarters east