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A Life Revealed

The artwork of the late Hella Bailin reveals both the tragedies that haunted her youth and the grace she found later in life.

Hella Bailin

Artist Hella Bailin shows off her painting. She used art as an outlet to express the hardships of her life.

Through her art, Hella Bailin revealed some of the best and worst moments of her life. From the worst—her parents were killed in a concentration camp during the Holocaust—to joyful world travels, Bailin created her art as a way to embrace cultures, capture the essential goodness of people, and accept and express her extraordinary sorrow and loss.

Now, Hella’s daughter, Bobbi Bailin of Falmouth, has organized an exhibit of her late mother’s art for the Cultural Center of Cape Cod. Some of her work is heart wrenching, such as her drawing of Adolph Hitler, titled He Killed My Father and Mother. Other pieces are elegant renderings of her travels, such as Boats, a watercolor and casein image of a small Greek harbor. Together, the art forms an exhibit that is powerful in content, form, history, and emotion.

As a girl in Germany, Hella studied art until the Nazi regime put a stop to it. By the late 1920s, life itself was a dangerous proposition. “In Berlin, Hella saw more and more political attacks,” Bobbi says. “People were shot. Their house was searched. Nazi officers ransacked the house for books for a public burning.” By age 20, Hella couldn’t attend school or get a job in Germany. Her parents, Benno Loewenstein and Hulda Hoffman Loewenstein, in whose memory the Cultural Center exhibit is dedicated, sent Hella to the U.S., intending to follow her. Hella found out much later—in 1945, the year her daughter Bobbi was born—that her parents had died at the notorious concentration camp Theresienstadt, located in what is now the Czech Republic.

Hella Bailin, who died in 2006 at age 90, didn’t speak about the Holocaust until she was 72. When she did, the harrowing stories emerged. Her words were captured on video as part of the Holocaust Oral Testimonies Project housed at Yale University’s Sterling Library. Bobbi combined information from the video with photos of Hella’s life to create the booklet “Hella.” Bobbi now has produced a second booklet, “In Her Own Words,” which joins Hella’s thoughts about her artwork with reproductions of the pieces. The booklets will be on display at the exhibit.

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