The Art Fund helps buy key works in Imperial War Museum's new exhibition

  • 5 September 2008

Memories of the Holocaust, seven poignant oil paintings by Roman Halter, have been acquired by the Imperial War Museum with the help of The Art Fund, the UK's leading independent art charity. This new addition to the Museum's permanent collection will be on display as part of the Museum's exhibition 'Unspeakable: The Artist as Witness to the Holocaust' which opens today. The Art Fund provided a grant of 22,000 towards the 70,000 total cost of the paintings.

Halter, a Polish Jew who survived the Holocaust, painted these seven powerful paintings 25 years after World War II ended. Each painting re-calls his traumatic experiences of the suffering and loss he endured and observed under the German occupation. Barbed wire is shown binding the faces and bodies in pain, whilst merging Jewish identity with the atrocity that they were innocently involved in.

David Barrie, Director of The Art Fund, said: “These paintings are by a man who endured unthinkable atrocities under the Nazi regime. It is important that these powerful works will now be on public display at the Imperial War Museum, and we’re proud to have helped secure their purchase.”

In September 1939, when Roman Halter was just 12 years old, Hitler’s troops entered the north-western part of Poland. His home town of Chodecz was made an integral part of greater Germany, and the SS police took charge and began to ‘clear-out’ or murder Jewish people. By the following year, in autumn 1940, of the 800 Jews who originally lived in the town, just 360 were left. These dead included Halter’s father who died from starvation in the Jewish ghetto, and at the tender age of 13 Halter helped to bury him. Halter was then sent on to the Jewish ghetto in Lodz where he was forced to work in a metal factory for the Nazi regime. He then went via the Auschwitzz and Stutthof concentration camps, to work as slave labour in a munitions factory in Germany. By the age of 17 his entire family had also died.

At the end of the war Halter returned home to Chodecz, to discover that of the 800 Jews that had lived in his home town of before 1939 he was one of only four that had survived.

Halter eventually settled in Britain, and quite soon after his arrival in the country he started visiting the National Gallery, where he found windows into his own experiences, most notably in the images of the Crucifixion. The influence of these visits can be seen in the works from Memories of the Holocaust, especially in Shlomo, where Halter depicts his brother who was hanged by the Nazis for an act of compassion.

In May 2006, sixty-one years after the war ended, Roman Halter returned to Chodecz, in central Poland, and in January 2007 his book Roman’s Journey was published, a compelling memoir of his experiences.

Memories of the Holocaust will feature in the Imperial War Museum’s forthcoming exhibition Unspeakable: The Artist as Witness to the Holocaust. Imperial War Museum London, 5 September 2008 – 31 August 2009.


Notes to editors:

The Art Fund

1. The Art Fund is the UK’s leading independent art charity. It offers grants to help UK museums and galleries enrich their collections; campaigns on behalf of museums and their visitors; and promotes the enjoyment of art.
2. It is entirely funded from public donations and has 80,000 members. Since 1903 the charity has helped museums and galleries all over the UK secure 860,000 works of art for their collections.
3. Recent achievements include: helping secure Anthony d’Offay’s collection, ARTIST ROOMS, for Tate and National Galleries of Scotland in February 2008 with a grant of £1million; putting together a unique funding package to ensure Dumfries House in Ayrshire and its contents were secured intact for the nation in July 2007; and running the ‘Buy a Brushstroke’ public appeal which raised over £550,000 to keep Turner’s Blue Rigi watercolour in the UK.
4. For more information contact the Press Office on 020 7225 4888 or visit

The Imperial War Museum holds one of the greatest collections of 20th Century British art in the world. The art collection was first established during the First World War, and is now widely considered to be an unparalleled resource for the study of British art of the two world wars and beyond. For further information on the Art Collection see

This London branch of the Imperial War Museum houses exhibits ranging from tanks and aircraft to photographs and personal letters; it also holds film and sound recordings, and some of the twentieth century's best-known paintings. Visitors can explore six floors of exhibitions and displays, including a permanent exhibition dedicated to the Holocaust and a changing programme of special temporary exhibitions.

Press Contact: Laura McKechan 020 7416 5311
Victoria Smith 020 7416 5497

The national museum of the experiences of people who have lived, fought and died in conflicts involving Britain and the Commonwealth since 1914.

The Imperial War Museum is the museum of everyone’s story: the history of modern war and people’s experience of war and wartime life in Britain and the Commonwealth. It is an educational and historical institution responsible for archives, collections and sites of outstanding national importance.

The Museum’s five branches include Imperial War Museum London, which houses the award-winning The Holocaust exhibition; the Second World War cruiser HMS Belfast; the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms, housed in Churchill’s secret headquarters below Whitehall; Imperial War Museum Duxford, a world-renowned aviation and heritage complex; and Imperial War Museum North, one of the most talked-about Museums in the UK.