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Elsa’s (אלזה לנגר) story is one of tragedy; her life is one of riumph. Her art, the outpouring of her heart, reveals the path Elsa has taken from loss of family and home to a life of faith and hope.
Born to a religious Jewish family around 1932, probably in Austria, her parents Aaron and Hilda Sokolosky, gave her the name Hydrilka.
Childhood memories indicate Aaron was a biologist, possibly working in the University of Vienna, with the ‘Anschluss’ the most likely reason for later moving his family to Baden-Baden, Germany. With the rise of Nazi Germany, Baden-Baden became the place of the family’s disintegration.
In 1940 Hydrilka’s parents managed to smuggle her brother, Arnold, out of the region. All contact with him from that time on was lost; a loss Hydrilka felt keenly over the years.
In 1941, Nazis plundered their home, murdering her grandmother while Hydrilka hid under the table. Shortly thereafter, the remainder of the family, grandfather, father, mother, and Hydrilka were taken to Terazin concentration camp. They were subsequently transferred to Bergen-Belsen where Hydrilka was stricken with typhus. For Hydrilka and her family the holocaust horrors lasted close to three years before a hint of hope appeared. Perhaps because of her father’s importance, a ‘passport exchange’ was arranged enabling the family to leave Bergen-Belsen and travel to South America, arriving first in Paraguay and then moving on to Uruguay.
But hope was elusive for Hydrilka’s family; South America became the scene of further disaster. Seeking suitable employment her father departed for Chile. Contact through correspondence continued for some time, lessened, and eventually ceased. Despair brought her grandfather to suicide. Feeling utterly destitute, Hydrilka’s mother laid herself and her daughter on railway tracks, seeking to end their lives. Her mother died, but Hydrilka survived with broken bones, and a scarred body and soul.
In 1944, when Hydrilka was around eleven years old, still recovering from surgery, she was given for adoption to a Catholic family who had lost their own daughter. They gave her the name Elsa Shoshana Garcia (a name of some other girl that died a few years earlier).
The adopting family did all that they could to eradicate her former identity; for instance, speaking in German was strictly forbidden and any lapse was severely punished. This was the place where her art was born; every day she would find scraps of paper on which to draw the faces of the family she was being forced to forget.
Conscious of her own alienation and confused about her true identity, Elsa’s sensitive and artistic spirit was often drawn to displaced persons; her sympathies were with the broken hearted, her empathies with the deeply distressed.
In spite of her personal tragedies Elsa matured and eventually trained to be an art teacher. Much of her past was an elusive shadow until 1965. Conversation with an older teaching colleague who knew her adoptive family, confirmed to Elsa that she was adopted.
Now, at the age of thirty three, Elsa began to understand the mysterious fragments of her life….why she had always been so deeply moved when she heard Yiddish spoken… why her art teacher had thought Elsa’s art was more European than South American in style… why that name ‘Sokolosky’ kept coming to mind. Searching her wounded memories, Elsa returned to an area in South America where she used to live and found people who remembered her, her parents, and who confirmed her suspicions that she was Jewish.
Hoping to find her brother Arnold, Elsa came to Israel in 1970 but that hope was disappointed. The people of the kibbutz where she stayed gave Elsa a new Hebrew name, ‘Aliza’, meaning ‘gay, joyful’. Though at that time it was a name that hardly suited her inner state, the name Aliza has stayed with her to this day.
In 1971 Elsa married and became the mother of two children. In 1978 both her children suffered from serious medical problems and it was in the midst of these trying times that Elsa came to a personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. From this point onwards Elsa began a journey of growing in faith and into her new name.
In 2002 Elsa’s husband passed away and in 2006 she left Israel to be with her daughter in Argentina, returning again to Israel in 2009.
Today Aliza lives in Haifa where her occupation and passion are painting and teaching art whenever she can. Though she lacks documentation from her childhood, Aliza’s life’s journey is indisputably documented by her aintings, moving as they do from destruction and despair through to life and light. The vibrant colors of her current works are a testimony to her victory.
A PICTORIAL BIOGRAPHY
Elsa’s biography is explained and validated through her expressionistic art; one can forge a document to tell false facts, but to do that with so many painting over a period of 50 years is quite impossible. The paintings herein are a small representation of Elsa’s collection. They serve as a visual record of her experience as the child in Terazin and Bergen-Belsen, the traumatic loss of her family in South America, the subsequent enforced change of culture and name, and finally her return to Israel and the blossoming of her faith. The paintings have been grouped as follows:
Part 1: Europe (the holocaust and its echoing affect);
Part 2: South America (life in Uruguay);
Part 3: First arrival in Israel;
Part 4: South America (life in Argentina)
Part 5: Return to Israel
Epilogue: abstract paintings
Important Dates in the Life of Elsa Langer
1933 Born in Austria or possibly Germany 1944 Arrival in Uruguay after the Holocaust
1947 Began to take private lessons from the brothers Alceu and Edgardo Ribeiro of the Torres Garcia School (Dada movement) in Montevideo, Uruguay
1948 Studied sculpture in school in Montevideo
1949-50 Studied painting in the University of Bellas Artes, Montevideo under the Uruguayan master Felipe Seade
1955 Studied technical and abstract painting from the artist Enrique Rondeau
1958 Passed the exam to be an art and technical drawing teacher. Taught in elementary and highschools in Montevideo, until she immigrated to Israel
1970 Made Aliya to Israel
1992 Taught art in a youth cultural center in Ariel, Israel
2002 Taught art in “Beit Eyal” hostel for mentally disabled, Karmiel, Israel
2007-08 Studied Philosophy in Buenos Aries, Argentina; she lived with her daughter during this time
2009-Date Residing in Haifa, Israel and continued to paint and teach art
1966 Ateneo de Montevideo, Uruguay
1967 Argentino Hotel, Piriapolis, Uruguay
1968 Country Club, Lagomar, Uruguay
1969 Country Club, Lagomar, Uruguay
1970 Kibbutz Sarid, Israel
1975 Community Center, Dimona, Israel
1993 Youth Cultural Center, Ariel, Israel
1998 Nahariya Cultural Center, Israel
2010 Haifa Cultural Center, Haifa, Israel
1950 UNESCO Exhibition 2000 Group exhibition: “Peace”, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
2002 Group exhibition in the art gallery of Karmiel municipality, Israel.
2011 Group exhibition: “Childhood”, Tel-Aviv, Israel.
2011 Group exhibition: “The star of David – from the yellow patch to David Shield”, Tel-Aviv, Israel.
• Self-portrait in the “Yad-Vashem” art museum, Israel
• Three paintings in the Rabbinate Authority in Ariel, Israel
• Two paintings in the institute for Holocaust survivors, Ma’alot, Israel
• Four paintings in the hospice “Beth el tzedakah” in Shavei-Zion, Israel
• Fresco painting in Lagomar Country Club, Uruguay
• Wall decoration for an elementary school in Montevideo, Uruguay
• Scenography for the theatrical play ‘’En Familia” by Florencio Sanchez, Piriapolis, Uruguay
• Wall decoration for a children’s day care “Lili”, Ariel, Israel
• Wall decoration for the children’s ward in the Ramos Mejias hospital, Buenos Aries, Argentina
• Cover design for a book by Samuel Pecar, Escuela en el Sinai, AIELC, Tel Aviv 1998