The Pictures of Thomas Geve (pseudonym)
“In 1946, when a flood of literature came out about events in war-time Europe, I looked at a stack of drawings of mine which portrayed the life of youth in German concentration camps. A year earlier they had been published by a journal in Switzerland, and now I wanted to put them to words.”
Born on the Baltic in fall 1929, Thomas Geve (pseudonym) moved to Berlin with his family in 1939. Here he was allowed to continue his education only until 1942, when the Jewish school was forced to close. After that he had to do forced labor at the Jewish cemetery in Berlin-Weissensee until he and his mother were deported to Auschwitz in June 1943. His father had emigrated to England in 1939 and tried desperately and in vain to bring his family there. Separated from his mother on arrival, he was supposed to learn the bricklayer’s craft in the masons’ school in the main camp, so that he could be deployed later on at the I.G. Farben construction site in Monowitz. He never got around to that: As the Red Army approached, the SS evacuated the camp in mid-January 1945; on the death march, Thomas Geve finally reached the Buchenwald concentration camp, where he was liberated by the U.S. Army on April 11, 1945.
Between April and June 1945, still in Buchenwald, he used colored pencils and watercolors to record his experiences in 79 drawings on the backs of forms from the camp administrative office. In the process, he was helped by information from friends, who described to him, for example, the appearance of the Buna/Monowitz concentration camp, in which Thomas Geve was never a prisoner. Next he was placed in a children’s home in Switzerland and was reunited with his father, who was living in London and working as a surgeon. His mother did not survive the camp. Thomas Geve moved to London, went back to school, and studied civil engineering. When the British Army wanted to draft him, he emigrated, at the age of 20, to Israel. There he participated in the Sinai Campaign in 1956, the Six Day War in 1967, and the Yom Kippur War in 1973, married, and had children.
In 1985, Thomas Geve gave his pictures to Yad Vashem, the official memorial center, where they were restored. They were first made accessible to the public as part of an exhibition at the Buchenwald memorial site in 1995, and finally they were published in 1997. In documentary fashion, the illustrations record everyday life and regulations, especially in the Auschwitz concentration camp. Without making a moral plea or taking a personalized narrator stance, they serve as “illustrated stories” and show procedures of humiliation and punishment that characterized life in the concentration camp. Three of the pictures show scenes from the Buna/Monowitz concentration camp.
Thomas Geve has never drawn again since that time.
(SP; transl. KL)