Illuminations: The Art of Samuel Bak

Bring the powerful paintings of renowned artist and Holocaust survivor Samuel Bak into your classroom.

Explore 28 original works by Bak using our lesson plans, online gallery, and commentary on each painting. Bak’s art is a unique tool for studying the Holocaust, and the resources here are designed to help you and your students unravel its profound messages about war, memory, and identity.

Illuminations: The Art of Samuel Bak features 28 original works by world-renowned artist and Holocaust survivor Samuel Bak. The artist and his wife, Josée, together with Sue and Bernie Pucker, donated the paintings for exhibition at the Brookline, Massachusetts headquarters of Facing History and Ourselves. In addition, this collection is intended to be shared across North America as part of an important new educational resource for our work with educators and students.

Facing History and Ourselves takes great pride in our relationship with both Samuel and Josée Bak and Bernie and Sue Pucker. They have been incredibly generous to us over the years, allowing us to use Bak’s images both on the covers and in the content of our resource books, which are used in classrooms around the world.

Samuel Bak’s work has been a part of Facing History classes since the very beginning. Bak’s masterful skills as a draftsman—as well as his incredible imagination—open up profound questions for students. Much of Samuel Bak’s art is influenced by his experiences of surviving the Holocaust as a child in Vilna, Poland. Bak explains: “I certainly do not make illustrations of things that happened. I do it in a symbolic way, in a way which only gives a sense of a world that was shattered.” The themes of Bak’s work are also the themes of Facing History: questions of identity, responsibility, the challenges of justice, and the difficulties of rebuilding what was destroyed. As in Facing History classrooms, there are no easy answers to the difficult questions that his work asks us to consider.

On this website we have created an online gallery, complete with a video of the artist speaking about this collection, audio commentaries about Bak’s work by literary and Holocaust scholar, Professor Lawrence L. Langer. We also provide a collection of resources for educators, to assist teachers as they facilitate discussions with their students on these remarkable works of art.

Illuminations: The Art of Samuel Bak

Illuminations: The Art of Samuel Bak

This guide provides those viewing paintings by Holocaust survivor Samuel Bak with a framework for analyzing the art's profound symbolism about memory, justice, and identity.

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