Beloved Children of the Holocaust - Lost but Not Forgotten
April 18, 2023, Holocaust Remembrance Day, also known as Yom HaShoah, is a day to remember and honor the millions of Jews and others who were killed during the Holocaust by the Nazi regime in Europe during World War II.
Tragically, over 1.5 million children were among those murdered. The loss of these children is almost beyond comprehension - innocent lives denied a future. One website, Beloved Children of the Holocaust, makes sure these children are honored and remembered.
In January 2017, Mary Burkett, a retired nurse, decided to learn to draw. She had skimmed a library book and tried a few sketches years before, but decided to really give it a try. Searching on Pinterest for something to draw, she ran across a photo of a little Jewish boy. Hersch was the son of Yosef and Eszter Sicherman Goldberg. He was born in 1939 and gassed at Auschwitz in 1944. He was five years old.
“I just knew in an instant that I was supposed to draw him. He was the first of the 27 Beloved Children of the Holocaust, which I completed in about 7 months.”
Israel Cogan was the fifth of the Beloved Children, born in 1937 and murdered during the German occupation of his community in 1941. His eyes are bright, looking out into his world, and his curls surely delighted his mother.
Each portrait of the Beloved Children comes alive on the page. With no formal training, Mary created the most amazing pieces of art honoring these lost lives. The sweetness and innocence of these children shine through, and the eyes look right at you. I found myself teary-eyed, mourning little Hersh and Israel along with the others.
Currently, there are 130 portraits, and two of the original Beloved Children have been gifted to their surviving families. Otherwise, they are not for sale, though the pieces are available for exhibit and educational purposes, and organizations can request that Mary accompany exhibitions to present lectures and gallery talks via a request on her website.
Mary Burkett has continued her art with four new collections. Beloved: Legacy of Slavery consists of 14 portraits of children. Beloved: Restoration adds to the portraits of the slave children, envisioning full and free lives for them. Photos of the Warsaw Ghetto around 1942 inspired the Beloved: Unfinished Lives collection. Mary plans 150 portraits in a fifth collection, Beloved: 10.000, each one of the 150 representing 10,000 children who died – in total memorializing the one and a half million children murdered during the Holocaust.
When I contacted Mary for her permission to use one of the Beloved Children in this blog post, she let me know of an upcoming exhibit.
"A couple of things you might like to know: I’m going to Washington next week for a Congressional exhibit -a wonderful opportunity. I’m partnering with Anne Frank USA on an exhibit entitled In the Land of Wooden Shoes, which will have 6 Anne Frank portraits and 20 portraits of Dutch children killed in the Holocaust. It will be available to museums and universities in June - another great opportunity!"
During her research into the Beloved, Mary found little-known stories of personal sacrifice and heroism during the WWII/Holocaust era. Her “stories” are read by tens of thousands of people each week through social media, and now are available for the first time in book form. A documentary is available to rent or buy to learn about how Mary created the first 27 Beloved and how she first began to share their message.
Links to her website, Facebook page, documentary, and book:
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