Jakob Zim – Artist of light

April 12, 2010 21:44
2 minute read.


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Jakob Zim (Cymberknopf) was born in 1920 in Sosnowiec, Poland, to Herman (Zvi) and Gabriela. With the German occupation, young people were rounded up for forced labor, but thanks to his artistic talent, Zim was sent to work as a draftsman in the city’s police station. In mid-1941, he was forced to leave, but a well-connected German who had heard about Zim’s skill asked him to set up an applied arts workshop. There, Zim found temporary refuge, together with his two brothers and 120 youths, most of them friends from the Zionist Youth Movement. In the spring of 1943, the remaining Jews in the city were moved into the ghetto, including four from Zim’s family: himself, his father, his mother and his eldest brother. His younger brother, Nathan, had been sent to a forced labor camp, and their other relatives were deported to Auschwitz.

The liquidation of the ghetto began on August 1, 1943, nine days before Tisha Be’Av. Zim was sent to the Annaberg forced labor camp in Silesia, where he reproduced from memory a painting called “No One Cries Like Me” by artist Josef Budko, adapting it to his own situation. He was sentenced to 25 lashes and deported to the Blechhammer camp, which soon became an extension of Auschwitz. Several weeks later, Nathan arrived, which Zim viewed as the hand of destiny.

As the Red Army approached, the prisoners were taken on a death march. The two brothers trudged over snow-covered fields, one supporting the other. Suddenly, in the distance, they saw roofs and a church tower glowing gold in the winter sun. Taking such pleasure in the beauty of creation, Jakob Zim realized that the artist within him was the source of his strength, and that he had to survive in order to tell his story in his own language – painting. The brothers made it to Buchenwald, where they were liberated.

After emigrating to Israel, Zim continued his studies at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem, where he met his future wife Ruth. He earned a name for himself as a graphic designer and artist, exhibited his work in Israel and abroad, and won many prizes, including an international competition to design a stamp to commemorate the Holocaust.

Zim’s memoirs, Shards and Light, describe his artistic creations, which express the events he experienced and his optimistic approach to life. He summarizes by saying, “I’ve learned to live with the shadow and to create with the light.”

Jakob and Ruth Zim have four sons, eight grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

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