The University of Wisconsin Press


Memoir / Holocaust Studies


They'll Have to Catch Me First
An Artist's Coming of Age in the Third Reich
Irene Awret


The life-saving power of art

Berlin 1939. A few months after Kristallnacht, eighteen-year old Irene Spicker tries to flee to Belgium but ends up in a Nazi prison. Freed after a few weeks, she tries again—this time, in the dark of night, she successfully crosses the frontier. The Germans invaded Belgium, and Irene was forced into hiding. Constantly on the move, she worked as a farmhand, at one point using false identity papers. Arrested by the Gestapo, she sat in a cellar prison cell destined for transport to Auschwitz. To calm her fears, she made a small detailed drawing of her hand which was to save her life. Incarcerated in the concentration camp in Mechlen, she was assigned to paint signs, posters and numbers for her co-prisoners to wear around their necks. This is Irene Awret's story of her first twenty-five years, from coming of age in a middle-class Jewish family to Mechlen where she met the young sculptor Azriel Awret, to liberation and freedom once more.

Irene Awret and her husband Azriel were founders of the Safad Artist Colony in Israel. A painter and ceramist, she has had numerous shows in Israel and the United States. She and her husband now live in Falls Church, Virginia.

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Illustration from the book

The Train Is Coming! Watercolor. Irene Awret. (Ghetto Fighters' House Museum, Israel)

the cover of Awret's book is illustrated by a painting of a girl with red hair in a chair.

May 2004
LC: 2003045832 N
384 pp.   6 x 9
10 photos, 25 illus.    

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