Ella Liebermann-Shiber was born in Berlin in 1927. Her father, a native of Germany, was a fur merchant and her mother, born in Poland, was a midwife. Ella had a sister and two brothers. She received a Jewish education and later joined a Zionist youth movement. In 1938, she and her family were forced to leave Germany due to her mother’s nationality. They went to Będzin to be with her mother’s family.
In August 1943, during one of the last Nazi roundups (Aktion), the family was hiding in a pit they had dug near their house. Food was provided by Ella’s thirteen-year old brother Leo and a Polish janitor. Polish people trying to help their Jewish neighbors risked their lives. Refusing to betray the family when asked by a SS-officer, the janitor was beaten to death. Eventually, the family left the hiding place and turned themselves in to the Germans. In December 1943, Ella and her parents and brother were deported to Auschwitz.
Ella and her mother were selected to work in a munition factory. When a SS-officer learned that Ella was an artist, she was forced to paint portraits. This skill helped her and her mother to stay together, until they were sent on a death march in January of 1945. They ended up in the Neustadt camp, a satellite of the women’s camp of Ravensbrueck in Germany. Both Ella and her mother were liberated on May 2, 1945.
Returning to Poland, Ella met Emanuel Shiber, whom she married in 1946. They left Poland and settled in a German Displaced Persons camp near Munich. In the hope to reach Israel, they boarded a ship, which, however, was stopped by the British. The British government put the Jewish refugees into a camp in Cyprus, where Ella and her husband stayed until 1948, until they were allowed to move to Haifa in Israel. Follow her path across Europe after 1944.
In 1945, Ella started drawing pictures about the daily life and the atrocities she witnessed in Będzin. These drawings were first shown in Haifa in 1950, then at an exhibit at the Ghetto Fighters Museum in Israel. In 1998, Ella passed away in Haifa.
Her paintings are collected in:
On the Edge of the Abyss (Ghetto Fighters House, 1992)
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