Portraits of Holocaust Survivors : The Edut Project

portraits of holocaust survivors

Created for The Visual History Archive of the USC Shoah Foundation, The Edut Project tells the story of Holocaust survivors through the portrait paintings of David Kassan, written profiles by journalist Dan Maccarone and short films by filmmaker Chloe Lee.

Portraits of Holocaust Survivors

David Kassan paintings for The Edut Project

There are fewer than 200,000 Holocaust survivors left worldwide and the number is quickly dwindling, leaving their stories untold and possibly lost forever. Artist David Kassan and his two partners, Dan Maccarone and Chloe Lee, have formed The Edut Project; a website that shares survivors’ stories through different mediums, immortalizing them for generations to come.

portraits of holocaust survivors

Holocaust facts

The Holocaust

The Edut Project website displays the portrait paintings as well as the written and multimedia aspects of each survivor’s story. The hope is to raise $450,000 to fund a multimedia gallery exhibition, 17 more paintings and an accompanying book.

The Edut project


Kassan’s superb life-size portraits (5 of which have been completed at the time this was written) manage to simultaneously express the both strength and vulnerability of survivors Bella Sztul and twin sister Rosalyn Goldofsky, Sam Goldofsky, Elsa Ross, and Louise and Lazar Farkas.

Bella Sztul and twin sister Rosalyn Goldofsky:

Bella Sztul and twin sister Rosalyn Goldofsky
Holocaust survivors Bella Sztul and twin sister Rosalyn Goldofsky

Bella Sztul, Age 87
Went into hiding after the occupation of Poland
Occupation: Real Estate

Rosalyn Goldofsky, Age 87
Went into hiding after the occupation of Poland
Occupation: Interior Designer, Paralegal

painting of Holocaust survivors Rosyln and Bella
“Roslyn and Bella”, oil on panel, 60 by 45 in., 2016

Interview with the sisters, shot and edited by Chloe Lee:

Sam Goldofsky:

Holocaust Survivor Sam Goldofsky
Holocaust Survivor Sam Goldofsky

Sam Goldofsky
Age 88
Survivor of Auschwitz Birkenau and the Death March
Occupation: Real Estate

painting of Holocaust Survivor Sam Goldofsky
“Sam Goldofsky, Auschwitz Survivor”, oil on panel, 45×35 inches, 2015

David Kassan's paintings of holocaust survivors

Interview with Sam, shot and edited by Chloe Lee:

Elsa Ross:

Elsa Ross
Elsa Ross

Elsa Ross, Age 79
Was hidden in a Catholic orphanage to avoid capture during the war
Occupation: French Teacher, Museum Curator, Gallery Owner, and Boutique Owner

portrait of holocaust survivor elsa ross
“Elsa Ross, Hidden Child”, oil on panel, 20×30 inches, 2016

paintings by David Kassan

Louise and Lazar Farkas:

Holocaust Survivors Louise and Lazar Farkas
“Love and Resilience, Portrait of Louise and Lazar Farkas, Survivors of the Shoah,” 46×42 inches, oil on panel

painted portraits of holocaust survivors by David Kassan

painted portraits

Kassan developed his realist painting style after graduating with a BFA from Syracuse University, learning from masters of realism including Harvey Dinnerstein and Burton Silverman. Kassan said he started out painting his family members and friends – not for commissions, but simply as a way to get to know his subjects better. He paints from life, but also from photographs if his subjects aren’t able to pose for a long time.

Kassan painting the portrait of the surviving twin sisters
Kassan painting the portrait of the surviving twin sisters

“Painting was an excuse to get to know people’s stories and spend time with them,” Kassan said. “You’re learning about someone through their face.”

It has taken him anywhere from two months to two years to finish his life-size paintings, Kassan said.

the edut project paintings
The first three paintings from the project, together for the first time at @galleryhenoch

Kassan first got the idea to paint Holocaust survivors from a student of his while he was teaching art in Tel Aviv. She mentioned that her mother-in-law was a Holocaust survivor, and Kassan immediately wanted to paint her. Though the woman ultimately declined to be painted, the idea to paint Holocaust survivors was planted.

Kassan had personal reasons to focus on Holocaust survivors as well. His grandfather escaped ethnic cleansing in Romania, and through painting other survivors, Kassan feels he is meeting him and learning more about what he went through.

Kassan, Maccarone and Lee have so far found their subjects through word of mouth but are hoping to find more who would like to participate.

The Edut project

While many survivors have already told their stories on video (as in the Visual History Archive) or in memoirs, Kassan believes painting offers viewers a different kind of connection to the survivors, one that puts a personal face to the sometimes abstract idea of the Holocaust.

It’s handmade, raw, life size and it speaks what the survivor went through, and the hard work in their lives after the atrocities,” he said. “We wear our lives on our faces and our skin. [The painting] shows the pathos of the sitter and what they’re going through. It forms a connection with the audience.” – David Kassan

The Edut Project

all images and information courtesy of David Kassan and The Edut Project