Yidel (Julius) Podeswa, and was born on December 10, 1924, in lvansk, Poland. In 1936, he moved with his family to Lodz in 1936. Yidel’s family, before the war, consisted of his parents, Chaim and Devorah Podeszva, and his siblings, Mailech, Gittel, Pessel, Temma, Malliah, and Tzirel, none of whom survived the war.
Yidel and his family moved into the ghetto in 1940. While there, he worked in a German toy factory, painting toys for children of the Nazi soldiers. At the age of 17, starved for food and faced with being the head of the family as his father had been taken away, he painted a picture of Rumkovsky, who was the Jewish commandant of the ghetto, and went with his mother to present it to him. He was rewarded with a couple of pounds of flour and some sugar. This painting is now in the Jewish Historical Museum in Warsaw. Yidel had no idea how it was found and wound up there, but he said he thought it belonged there and wanted it to stay in the Museum.
In August of 1944, Yidel was taken to Auschwitz with his mother and youngest sister. They were the only members of his family left, as his father and his other brothers were sent from the ghetto earlier.
Yidel found his mother’s sister, who was living in Toronto, and she arranged for him to come to Canada in 1948. He met Ruth and they were married in 1954, and together they have 3 children, Howard, Debbie, and Jeremy, as well as 6 grandchildren.
In the early days, Yidel worked in his cousin’s bridal gown factory, cutting dresses. He went to school to learn English and was accepted to the Art College of Toronto, where he studied for 3 years.
By 1962, he wanted to spend full time on his art, which he did for the rest of his life.
In Yidel’s own words, spoken at his daughter Debbie’s wedding, “Some people think we survived the catastrophe by a fortunate coincidence, or by accident. But I believe it was G-d’s will that some of us survived in order to tell the world, and especially our children, what happened. It is not easy to convey this message to people, and sometimes it is difficult even with one’s own children. But I was convinced that the only possible response to the Holocaust was to create a Jewish home and raise children who would remember our past and build a new Jewish future. Today, as I see our dear Debbie and Jamie embarking on their lives together, I know that I have achieved my goal.”
Yidel sadly passed away in June, 2012, and his children spoke at his funeral. In part, they said, “Our father’s great passion was his art, with which, through his subjects, he painted the world and people that he loved, creating a testament to his survival with the paintings serving as evidence. His work also served, quite deliberately, as a tribute to his own father and brother, talented artists themselves, who never had the opportunity to create a lifelong body of work. His other great passion was, without question, his family. It is often said, figuratively, that a parent lives for his or her children. For our father, it is literally true that he lived for his children. He lived and survived the vicissitudes of life so that he could have his children and raise them and see them fulfill their dreams along with his own.”
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