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Aba Bayefsky, 78, painted camp horrors

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TORONTO, May 7 (JTA) – Aba Bayefsky, the distinguished Canadian artist whose Holocaust paintings are displayed at the Canadian War Museum, died Saturday in Toronto at the age of 78.

After Bergen-Belsen was liberated in May 1945, Bayefsky – a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force and an official Canadian war artist – witnessed firsthand some of the horrors that had been perpetrated upon the Jewish people.

He later produced dozens of haunting and grisly canvases related to what he saw at the concentration camp.

“I saw pits with thousands of dead bodies piled in them,” he recalled in 1998. “They were just lumps, that’s all. They had trucks backing up to these pits and they were just throwing them in. It had a profound impact on me.

“My impressions of Belsen have never gone away. They’re with me today and I see them even more clearly as I grow older. It was a major experience of my life.”

Bayefsky often utilized biblical and talmudic themes in his work and published a portfolio of paintings titled “Tales From The Talmud.”

The Canadian government once gave a copy of the portfolio to Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin when he visited Canada.

Bayefsky was fascinated with his Jewish heritage.

He made thousands of sketches and paintings of Kensington Market, the colorful neighborhood in downtown Toronto that was once predominantly Jewish, and painted scenes of Jerusalem and other locales in Israel.

Bayefsky also explored the legends, mythologies and tales of Indian, Japanese and other cultures in his work, which has been exhibited in New York, Chicago, London, Tokyo and India.

In addition to the Canadian War Museum, Bayefsky’s work hangs in the Art Gallery of Ontario and in many corporate halls and private homes.

He is survived by his wife, three children and five grandchildren.

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