Warning! The text retains the original spelling of surnames and place names by an Israeli researcher; in many cases it may not be correct. Fragments that could contain current personal data have been removed from the interview.


Names of Interviewees: Hadasa and Zlila Bau

Interview Topic: Joseph Bau

Born in 1920 in Krakow, died in Tel Aviv in 2002

His mother Cila was born in 1897 and died in Bergen Belsen concentration camp of illness, a day after the camp was freed. Cila owned a store in Krakow. The store at first sold baby products and then began to sell chocolates and finally became a hat store. Cila used to make the hats herself. On vacations Joseph used to help her.

 His father, Avraham Bau was born in 1877 and was the first Jew murdered in Płaszów concentration camp after refusing to do forced labor due to his heart condition. Avraham was a merchant. The family was well-to-do.

Joseph was the eldest of three brothers. His brother Marcel who was three years younger, survived the Holocaust and moved to America. The youngest brother Izio, who was born in 1930, was murdered in the ghetto.

The family was secular. They lived in a mixed neighborhood in Krakow and spoke Polish at home. Joseph went to the Polish school Santa Barbara, and then to the Hebrew High School. From an early age, Joseph showed a tendency towards the arts; he used to draw and build sets for school plays. He received a special prize for a poem he wrote at the age of 11.

At the age of 18 he started his art studies at the University for Plastic Arts in Krakow, a fact that probably saved his life. One of the tutors at the University chose to teach the students German Gothic letters. Joseph showed interest and learned how to write them. When the family moved into the ghetto, he was soon chosen by the Germans to make their signs. Joseph did not understand neither spoke German, and only by chance did not make mistakes that could have cost him his life.

With the tools he had, Joseph also made fake ID cards for many Jews and helped to save their lives. When his daughters asked him years later why he didn't make a fake ID for himself, he replied: "So I could keep helping others…"

From the ghetto, the family was taken to Płaszów concentration camp. Joseph worked there as a draftsman and an electrician. He was very skilled. Joseph kept on drawing anti-Nazi drawings and wrote poems even while in the camps. He used to hide them in a hidden part of his bag. When Płaszów camp was destroyed, his bag was taken from him. Later on, Oscar Schindler came across the bag and noticed the initials J. Bau and returned the bag and its contents to its owner.

The only thing that was left from Płaszów camp is the map that Joseph drew there. After Płaszów, Joseph was transferred to Gross Rosen labor camp where he was tortured and abused like the other prisoners in the most horrific ways by the Nazis. During the last 7 months of the war, he was in Czechoslovakia, as one of Oscar Schindler's employees.

Once the war was over, he went back to Krakow and finished his art studies at the University, while working both as a teacher and as a caricaturist. Joseph's caricatures at the time were mostly of political nature and dealt with the fragility of the peace in Europe, and the illusion that Germany had really changed.

Joseph met his wife Rebecca at Płaszów camp at the age of 24. Joseph managed to sneak into the women's camp dressed as a woman and the couple got married there. They married once again in a lawful Jewish marriage ceremony after the war. Joseph and Rebecca are the couple whose wedding is shown in the movie "Schindler's List". They had their first child Hadasa in 1947.

They immigrated to Israel in 1950. Joseph told his daughters that from an early age he knew he would end up in Israel. When he practiced for his Bar Mitzva he heard a voice saying: "Tagia Le Bet El", his rabbi said the words meant "You will reach the house of God" which is the land of Israel.

In Israel the family eventually settled in Givatayim. Joseph worked as a draftsman for the Prime Minister's office. Joseph illustrated and was the man behind the typography of numerous Israeli movie posters and commercials. He was one of the first animators in Israel.

He and Rebecca had two daughters (Hadasa born 1947 and Zlila born 1956) and four grandchildren.

Since his death in 2002, Joseph's daughters maintain his studio as a museum of his work. Joseph had two exhibitions in Krakow over the last 20 years. In 1992 in "Apteka pod Orłem" and one at the great synagogue of Krakow in 2005.

In January 2007 an exhibition of his work was presented at a memorialization site of the Israeli intelligence, and at the same time his work was presented in the UN building in NYC as part of a special exhibition for the Holocaust Memorial Day.

Joseph Bau published a number of books of prose and poetry. "Brit Mila" (In Hebrew the name can be understood as "circumcision" and at the same time as a pact with the word) a book which like its name deals with the Hebrew language, "Circle Triangle", "Lo Tov" (which in Hebrew means "He has it well" but also "not good"), the book Cien Przechdnia (The Shadow of a Passerby)  and the book "Dear God have you ever gone hungry?"  Which was published in a number of translations including English, Polish (Czas zbezczeszczenia) Chinese and Spanish.