Fate Of The Erih Slomovic Collection

Politika, July, 1990


By Srdjan Skoro

Ihe small Serbian village of Bacina, situated between Cicevac and Varvarin, looks just like any other village in the Krusevac region. But Bacina villagers like to be different and joke that, in alphabetical order at least, they come before Berlin, Budapest, Belgrade… But that is not all. They are proud because Erih Slomovic's valuable collection of paintings was hidden in their village during the Second World War.

Fleeing from the Nazis, Erih Slomovic found refuge for himself and his parents and brother in Bacina and stayed there until the end of 1941, when he, his father Bernhard and brother Egon were taken to a concentration camp. Nothing more was heard about Erih. It is assumed that he died with millions of other Jews in a Nazi concentration camps.

The tale of the Slomovics is told by Dusan Živadinovic, a seventy five year old Bacina peasant, in whose house Slomovic's paintings were hidden. Erih Slomovic was the bestman at his wedding.

"I remember exactly when the Slomovics arrived. They carried a lot of stuff with them. I particularly recall three large metal trunks and two round boxes. It was these that Slomovic asked my father to hide. My father placed the trunks and boxes in a space in the chimney of our smokehut and sealed up the hole with bricks and mortar. Only my father and I knew about this. At the time I had no idea what was in the trunks, but I assumed that something valuable was involved. Erih and I quickly became friends, especially as I was a cobbler and the Slomovics had a tannery. Erih was interested in my trade.

Unfortunately, by the end of 1941 the Nazis had already taken away Erih, his father and brother. Erih's mother stayed with us until the end of the war. I am now convinced that somebody betrayed them because the Germans very rarely came to our village. Erih's mother was Mosa Pijade's cousin. When Belgrade was liberated she was invited to return home. It was then that we opened the hiding place and gave her the trunks which she took along. We heard later that she died in a train crash. I don't know what happened to the trunks."

Fortunately, in 1949, a part of Erih Slomovic's collection reached the National Museum in Belgrade. Another part of the col¬lection was discovered in 1981 in a safe in the Paris bank Societe Generale. The collection consists of 359 art objects: 58 paintings by foreign masters, 286 drawings and graphics by foreign artists and 15 works by Yugoslav painters. It includes works by Cezanne, Edgar Degas, Paul Gauguin, Pablo Picasso, Renoir and many other famous artists.

There is very little information about Erih Slomovic and his life. What is known is that he was born in Djakovo in 1915 and that he formed his collection in the period between 1935 and 1940. Fate ordained that he should find a temporary refuge in Bacina. From there he was taken never to return , but it was there that his life's work was preserved, a collection of paintings of which Bacina residents are today very proud. Judging by the names of artists and their work, the joke about Bacina from the beginning of the story is not just a joke.

Everyone visiting the Belgrade National Museum, where the complete Slomovic collection is on display, can see for themselves.

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