Towngate to Feature Holocaust Artwork by Wheeling Park High School Teacher | News, Sports, Jobs

Photo provided – Towngate Theater at the Oglebay Institute in Wheeling.

WHEELING — Russ Schultz, an art teacher at Wheeling Park High School, spent 35 years studying the atrocities of the Holocaust, and then he painted his emotions on the subject.

His resulting 47 works of art, titled “Lest We Forget”, will be on display at the Towngate Theater from Friday to November 21. A reception will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday at the theater to officially open the gallery.

He acknowledges that the works are not necessarily pretty, but rather reflect the ugly truth and the suffering of the Jewish people during the Holocaust.

“This artwork is not meant to be beautiful,” Schultz said. “It’s supposed to disturb and get people talking.

“No one should go there and expect to see happy little trees.”

Schultz is not Jewish, but comes from German ancestry.

He said his interest in the Holocaust came many years after hearing his aunts and uncles as a child speak highly of the German people and how proud they were of the German work ethic.

“At first I was brought up with the idea that Germans are really good people. Then hearing about the atrocities they committed during the Holocaust started a life of questioning,” said Schultz.

“I started to wonder – did my family have anything to do with this? Fortunately, we didn’t.

The Schultz family arrived in 1898 when Adolf Hitler was 10, he added.

Schultz said that as he became an adult, he began to learn about the Holocaust and to decipher exactly how and why it happened. He read books on the subject and watched documentaries.

“It wasn’t a formal education, but it was something I did on my own,” Schultz explained.

He also began looking at Holocaust-related art from other artists, including Picasso.

But what touched him the most were the artistic images created by the captives of the Jewish concentration camps. These were largely done in secret.

“Some of them depicted life in concentration camps,” he said. “There are images of things that happened before they were captured, and images of loved ones they missed.”

Other works showed their life as it was in the camps, as opposed to the life they once had, Schultz continued.

A picture of bread and jelly shows desperation in the camps, he said.

“People were so hungry that when they were offered bread and jelly to get on a train, they took it – not knowing what was at the other end.”

Schultz was able to travel to Poland and visit concentration camps thanks to a grant from the Classrooms Without Borders Foundation.

“The most important thing I learned from studying the Holocaust was how important it is to get along with everyone,” he said. “It is important to fight racism on all levels – black against white, country against country, belief against belief.

“There is no place for intolerance. Whenever it starts, it has to be stopped,” Schultz said.

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