Mixed media painting of Jewish children behind a ghetto fence, painted by a Polish Jewish artist

Language of Description
Alt. Identifiers
  • 2018.398.4
1 Jan 1996 - 31 Dec 1996
Level of Description
  • English
EHRI Partner

Extent and Medium

overall: Height: 23.125 inches (58.738 cm) | Width: 27.250 inches (69.215 cm) | Depth: 1.750 inches (4.445 cm)


Biographical History

Judith Evan Goldstein (b. Judith Shapiro, 1932) was born in Vilna, Poland (now Vilnius, Lithuania), to Chaim (Hayim) and Yetta (Yentl or Yenta) Golomb Shapiro. Judith had one older brother, Meir (b. 1926) and Yetta’s sister, Frieda, lived with the family. Yetta was a seamstress who designed and sold dresses from home and made the children’s clothes. Chaim was a mechanic for Olejarnia Kurlandzka and later took a job as a designer in an oil factory in Lida, Poland. He was also a handyman who crafted toys and trinkets for his children. The family lived in a nice apartment with a terrace and would often take walks around the city. Vilna had a large Jewish population and was a center of Jewish culture. Chaim was a secular Jew with socialist leanings, who, on occasion, would break kosher, while Yetta, was more observant. Judith’s mother nicknamed her Muśkele and the family spoke mostly Yiddish and some Polish at home. Judith attended public school and Meir went to Ezra, a private Hebrew school, and later gymnasium. In September 1939, in accordance with the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, Germany and the Soviet Union invaded and partitioned Poland. Vilna was in the Soviet zone, but was exchanged with Lithuania in October for acceptance of Soviet troops within their borders. The border change placed Lida, where Chaim worked, in the Soviet zone and the family had to move there so he could continue working. In June 1940, the Soviet Union fully annexed Lithuania. Judith and her family then moved back to Vilna and Chaim got a job as an engineer at a beer factory. On June 22, 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union and occupied Vilna on June 24. The authorities immediately declared that Jews could not use the sidewalks, their valuables were taken, and Jewish businesses and synagogues were vandalized. All Jews had to wear the Star of David, and Jewish men were taken for forced labor by Khapunes (snatchers). In September 1941, Jews were forced to move into two ghettos established in the poorest section of the city. Judith’s family could only bring a few things and was forced to live in a small apartment with several other families. Chaim received a job outside the ghetto, repairing abandoned Soviet military equipment and was able to get Meir a job painting machines. Yetta was forced to work as a seamstress for the Germans. Every month, the authorities selected thousands of Jews, mostly women and children, for aktions. They were taken to Ponary (Paneriai) forest outside the city and executed. With the exception of Aunt Frieda, all of Judith’s extended family who lived in and around the city were killed in this way. Judith’s parents’ skilled work allowed the family and Frieda, who still lived with them, to avoid selection for the aktions. In September 1943, the ghetto was liquidated and Chaim was taken away. The rest of Judith’s family was able to hide, but were later caught. The women were separated from the men and the young, elderly, and mothers with newborns were selected for execution. To make Judith look taller and older, Yetta fluffed up her hair and changed her birth year to 1930. Judith, Yetta and Frieda were then forced inside a box-car and deported to Kaiserwald concentration camp in German-occupied Latvia. Upon arrival their heads were shaved, their possessions were confiscated, their clothes were taken, and they were issued striped uniforms with numbers. They were housed in louse-ridden barracks and had to sleep four to a bunk. In the mornings the prisoners were forced outside for hours-long roll calls. Yetta and Frieda had to shovel coal, and Judith was a forced laborer for Allgemeine Elektricitäts-Gesellschaft (AEG), connecting wires to receptors on field telephones. While there, Judith became ill with diphtheria, which caused her to miss a children’s aktion in the camp. In September of 1944, with the Soviet army approaching, the camp was evacuated. The prisoners were marched to the port of Riga, and forced into the holds of ships for three days while they sailed to Stutthof labor camp in German-occupied Poland. Judith was very ill on the journey. Judith, Yetta, and Frieda were kept at Stutthof until October, then transferred to Thorn (Toruń), an AEG subcamp in the Stutthof complex. In Thorn, the prisoners were forced to load and unload heavy machines for the factory, work at the river port, and manufacture ammunition and weapons. They lived in cold barracks and received one slice of bread, a little margarine, and a plate of watery soup every day. Judith had to search though the garbage for extra food under the threat of whipping if she was caught. Many prisoners froze to death. To keep warm, Judith stuffed paper under her clothes. On January 20, 1945, Thorn was evacuated ahead of the approaching Soviet army. Judith, Yeta, and Frieda were forced to march to Bydgoszcz (Bromberg), Germany, to work at a new factory. Any prisoner who strayed from the line was shot by the guards. During a lapse in the guard’s supervision, Judith, Yetta, and Frieda escaped and took shelter in an empty house. When the Germans came looking for them, they hid in the chimney. The Soviets found them the next day and gave them a small apartment to live in. Yetta stitched and repaired clothes in exchange for food. They remained in Germany until after the war’s end in May, and then went to Łódź, Poland, hoping to discover news of Chaim and Meir. In Łódź, they shared an apartment with another family and reunited with Meir who had spent time as a forced laborer in several camps. They discovered that Chaim had been liberated and recruited by the Soviet army, but he died in battle eight days before Germany surrendered. The family remained in Łódź for a year. Frieda married a man and moved to Munich. Judith, Yetta, and Meir went to Germany and stayed near the Zeilsheim displaced persons (DP) camp in Frankfurt am Main, and were then transferred to nearby Lampertheim. Judith went to school and attended the Offenbach Conservatory of Music where she studied piano. She met Hershl (now Harry) Goldstein, a fellow survivor whose family was killed at Auschwitz. Harry immigrated to the Unites States in 1948, and waited until Judith and her family’s immigration quotas were selected. In 1949 Judith, Yetta, and Meir traveled to Bremerhaven, boarded the General Stuart Heintzelman, and sailed to New York. In the US, Yetta found work in a clothing factory and Meir became an engineer. Judith and Harry married in 1950. Judith earned a master’s degree in music and used music therapy to teach the learning and developmentally disabled. Later in life, she began creating art and music based on her experiences. She has work in the collections of Yad Vashem and the Holocaust Museum of Art in St. Petersburg Florida. Her art has also been featured in over 20 exhibits.

Archival History

The painting was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2018 by Judith Evan Goldstein.


United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Judith Evan Goldstein

Scope and Content

Mixed media painting of Jewish children forced to play behind the fence of the Vilna ghetto, created by Holocaust survivor Judith Evan Goldstein in 1996 from her memory as a child living in the ghetto. Judith was a child living in Vilna, Poland (now Vilnius, Lituania) when the country was occupied by Germany and the Soviet Union in September 1939. In June 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union, occupied Vilna, and initiated measures targeting the Jewish population. Jewish property was vandalized and taken, men were abducted and conscripted into forced labor battalions, and the Jewish population was forced into two overcrowded ghettos. In September 1943, the ghetto was liquidated and Judith, her mother, and aunt were transported to Kaiserwald concentration camp in German-occupied Latvia, where Judith was a forced laborer for Allgemeine Elektricitäts-Gesellschaft (AEG). In September 1944, they were evacuated to Stutthof labor camp in Poland, where they worked at Thorn (Toruń), an AEG subcamp. On January 20, 1945, they were evacuated and force marched toward Bromberg, Germany (now Bydgoszcz, Poland). Judith, her mother, and aunt escaped and hid in a house until Soviet forces found them the next day. After liberation, they went to Łódź and reunited with her brother and learned her father had been liberated by the Soviets, but died fighting in the Soviet army. The family lived near the Zeilsheim displaced persons (DP) camp in Frankfurt am Main, and immigrated to the United States in 1949. Later in life, she began creating art and music based on her experiences and has also been featured in over 20 exhibits.

Conditions Governing Access

No restrictions on access

Conditions Governing Reproduction

Restrictions on use

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

Large acrylic painting on a rectangular canvas depicting a tall wooden fence with many small cracks and holes with several children looking through. The fence, children, and debris in front of the fence are made from a variety of materials that have been adhered to the canvas and painted. Several long, thin tan vertical wooden strips form the fence. The children have purple, white, and green faces made up of several layers of paper adhered to each other. On the left side, a face and eye peer through a long vertical crack, while above, a different child’s arms and head hang over the fence. To the right a face looks through a large crack at the top of the fence. In the center, two faces peer through small holes in the fence and a head gazes over the top. On the right, a black bird sits on the fence while a child attempts to break out of the fence just below. Rising up behind the fence on each side are two trees with slender, leafy branches. Scattered beneath the fence are several light blue pieces of paper with dark blue speckles and fragments of wood. The painting is mounted in a textured, wooden frame with a stylized, brown wood bark design. On the back, the canvas is wrapped around the outside of a wooden stretcher, which is held tightly inside the frame with a silver colored metal bracket screwed to the center of each side. Screwed on each side of the frame is a metal bracket with a pentagonal suspension ring holding a metal wire across the top half. The top and right side of the canvas stretcher have handwritten text in purple ink.

back, top canvas stretcher, handwritten, purple ink : Mixed Media / by→ Judith Evan Goldstein – 1996 “Behind The Wooden Fence” 24x27 back, right canvas stretcher, handwritten, purple ink : Judith Evan Goldstein - Artist


Corporate Bodies



This description is derived directly from structured data provided to EHRI by a partner institution. This collection holding institution considers this description as an accurate reflection of the archival holdings to which it refers at the moment of data transfer.