Some words about Bela's life

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Bela Husserl had a short life. He was born on January 26th, 1898 and died at 42 in Austria's Hartheim Concentration Camp.
The country's records show that "he had been a patient of Steinhof psychiatric hospital in Vienna since November 16, 1926. On August 17, 1940 he was brought to Hartheim castle in Upper Austria where a gas chamber had been installed for the Nazi 'euthanasia'-program." No date of death is mentioned. Only that "in fact he was not murdered in a Concentration Camp but fell victim to Nazi medicine."

Presumably, he was killed in the new gas chamber soon after its installation. The words 'euthanasia' and 'medicine' seem questionable.

Questions remain as to why he was committed to a psychiatric hospital. Was it because he had artistic tendencies, which, history has shown us, alarmed people during that era? Was he, at 26, really mentally ill? It is known that schizophrenia "usually start(s) between ages 16 and 30." [NIH report:]

The record of his brother, Ernst, also furnished by the Austrian government, also gives no date of death, but it does give his convoy and deportee numbers. Béla's has no identification numbers.

Béla did leave artistic traces of himself behind: paintings. We know of large one in Perth, Australia and 6 very small ones in Boston. The owners of the paintings are myself, his paternal niece, and an accidental admirer who spotted his work at a Viennese antiques market.

Bela is my father's brother, but only just discovered that fact. The paintings were on my mother's living room wall for several decades, signed Béla Husserl. I was born with that last name, but my mother did not know the family connection. My father had died when she was 31, after only 7 years of marriage. I was 5. I didn't discover that Béla was my father's older brother until I inherited his family prayer book a few years ago. There was handwriting on some pages but I couldn't decipher it. Until two months ago, when I realized that it was the names and birth dates of 4 boys. When I realized that one of them had to be my father's name because it was accompanied by his date of birth, I concluded that the other names had to be of his brothers.

Web search revealed that a man from Australia had a painting by Béla and wanted to know if anybody in cyberland might know anything about this painter he'd fallen in love with. I answered him that I knew only a his immediate family's names and that I was the painter's paternal niece.

His life still remains a mystery to me. All that I have, which gave me a tiny insight into the man, is the series of small street scenes of Vienna (or Prague). They speak volumes of his artistic talent but little of his life.

Half a world away, another of Bela's paintings - this one much looser and less complex - surfaced on the internet. It had been bought by a man living in Australia - one who also found some magic in Bela's delightful illustrations. Together, he and I decided to pick at the seams of this story, and slowly unravel a strand of information that uncovered some fascinating insights into this man, and his life.

We are certain there is much more to be explored along Béla Husserl's timeline. Whatever the circumstances by which he met his death around 1940, we would like to honour his life through these beautiful paintings - done in better days - which are brimming with charm and whimsy.

If you happen upon a painting by him, or know of a tidbit of information about him and his life, please don't hesitate to contact us. We would wish for nothing more than to add it to this website, and memorialise the life of a man we never had the pleasure of meeting.

Title page of the Husserl Family Prayer Book and hand-written dedication to Emma Husserl

Hand-written translation of the Hebrew text on the hand-written prayer book page.

Hand-written entry inside prayer book, with names and birth dates of the 4 Husserl Brothers, including Béla's.


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