Franz Reisz

(Vienna 1909 – New York City 1984)

Drawn testimonies of Auschwitz

Franz Reisz was born in Vienna on 3 April 1909. After completing his artistic training, he lived and worked as a graphic artist in Vienna. On 31 May 1938, shortly after the “Anschluss” of Austria to the German Reich, he married. Together with his wife Lili, née Safir, he remained in Austria until June 1939, when they finally managed to flee to Paris. After the outbreak of war, Franz Reisz was arrested and interned in the French camp Beaune-la-Rolande and then, later, in Meslay-du-Maine. When the German Foreign Ministry demanded the extradition of Jews from the Vichy regime, on 11 May 1942 he was taken to the transit camp Pithiviers, from where he was deported to Auschwitz concentration camp on 25 June 1942. His prisoner number was 42447 A.

At Auschwitz, Franz Reisz was put to work in the typing pool. Since he was well-known as an artist, he drew for the SS. He also made drawings of some of the prisoners. In January 1945 he was evacuated from Auschwitz and taken to Mauthausen concentration camp. In May he was liberated from the subcamp in Ebensee.

Following his liberation, Franz Reisz spent time in various hospitals in France, where he also resumed his artistic endeavours. His works mainly show scenes from the Auschwitz concentration camp, which he depicted in all their brutality. Some of these drawings are also on display in the permanent exhibition of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum.

After the war, Franz Reisz was also able to make contact with his wife. At first, Lili Reisz had stayed behind in Paris, but in 1940 she managed to flee to the USA and lived with her brother Leopold Safir in New York. Upon learning that her husband had survived the Shoah she got him a visa, and Franz Reisz emigrated to the USA in 1946. That year his drawings featured in a publication containing testimonies from Auschwitz concentration camp. Franz Reisz died in New York City in March 1984. Lili Reisz bequeathed documents, letters and a sketchbook by her husband to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC.

Literature and sources

Claudette Bloch et al. (ed.), Témoignages sur Auschwitz. Mit einem Vorwort von Jean Cassou und Zeichnungen von François Reisz. Édition de l’Amicale des Déportés d’Auschwitz, Paris 1946.

Franz Reisz sketch book at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum:

Franz Reisz Art Collection Documenting Holocaust Given to Museum. In: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Newsletter, 2 October 1990.

Sibylle Goldmann, Myrah Adams Rösing, Kunst zum Überleben – gezeichnet in Auschwitz, Ulm 1989.