Bernard Zakheim’s Holocaust Collection & Mount Sinai Memorial

WTK- CA Terri Barnett visit Mount Sinai Zakheim MemorialTerri BarnettThe Warsaw Ghetto Memorial / Memorial to Six Millionmemorial

This powerful memorial, located in the Hollywood Hills Mount Sinai Cemetery, was created by artist Bernard Zakheim.  He was prolific painter/sculptor, born in Poland and lived from 1898-1985.  His parents wanted him to be a rabbi, not an artist, but they compromised by having him study furniture design and upholstering. He studied art on his own and was recognized as an artist by the time he was 15.  He came to America with his wife around 1918 when he was about 19 years old, and he settled in San Francisco.

He started an upholstery business, but also traveled the world to study art.  In the 20’s, his paintings promoted Jewish folk life.  He painted socially conscious-themed frescoes in the 30’s.  A work considered his first fresco is at the Jewish Center in San Francisco (1932) – his 1st actual fresco was done in Hungary, but was destroyed during WWII.  He was asked to paint inside the well-known Coit Tower (1933). In the 40’s he claimed to be atheist, but his deep spiritual nature continued to appear in his work.  He painted a lot of life coming from death.

In 1943, during the fall of the Warsaw Ghetto, Zahkeim lost 300 family members, including mother and siblings.  He had been in a German war prison during WWI, so he went back to Poland in 1939, and again in 1941, to try to get his family to leave.  He strongly felt this war would be much worse than the last.  He painted many Holocaust themed works after that.  His son, Nathan, was born that same year.

We The KidsIn 1966, he created this memorial using three dimensional figures rendered in burnt and tortured wood to depict differences among Holocaust victims.  Six heroic figures are set among cement slabs bearing the names of the most infamous of the Nazi death camps.  Rising from these stones is the flame that symbolizes the eternal spirit of the Six Million martyrs and the rebirth of Israel from the ashes of the Holocaust.  The central figure is called Genocide.  It features a child (meant to be of any age) bound in chains within the frame of death

Just getting to the memorial, you’ll get a little taste of Israel!  Through the gates with the 10 commandments tablets hanging on them and up Mt Sinai Road through Kedron & Canaan (sections of the cemetery), you’ll soon turn on Covenant Way, pass the Courts of Machpelah & the Gardens of Sheltering Love, Perfect Faith, Eternal Promise, & Constant Love…then find the Zakheim Memorial at the corner of Covenant Way & Moriah Road, across from Moses!  We took a different way out, so we could pass the Courts of the Psalms, Proverbs, and Heritage, Gardens of the People of the Book, of Tradition, & of Blessings…and out past the beautiful washing pool.  You’ll also be near other interesting places, so go and make a day of it!  Forest Lawn Cemetery is next door.  Travel Town train museum and the LA Zoo is on the other side.  Just across the highway are several TV/movie studios.  Griffith Park & Observatory are just over the hill!

Nathan Zakheim is still living.  He restores murals and is responsible for restoring many important ones, including a WPA-era mural at San Diego State, and many of his father’s.  He also loves to talk about his father.

Check out the We The Kids website to see more of Zakheim’s work:

They have also recently been featuring other Holocaust-related stories, so we never forget it happened.  If you would like to visit the memorial in Hollywood Hills, visit Coit Tower in San Francisco,  interview Nathan Zakheim, or appear on the We The Kids website, have we got a project for YOU!

Please contact Terri at if you are interested in learning more!


We The KidsMore about Bernard Baruch Zakheim (April 4, 1898 – 1985). He was a Polish-born San Francisco muralist, best known for his work on the Coit Tower murals.

Introduction: Bernard Zakheim’s Holocaust Collection is a group of sculptures and paintings that expresses a vision both personal and transpersonal in nature. Consisting of 23 carved figural sculptures and 7 oil paintings created from the early 1940s through the 1970s, the collection provides a singularly powerful emotional statement about the period of the Nazi liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto.


Style and Context:

As a group, the sculpture derives its emotive and spiritual power not only from the manner in which the works are carved, but also from the way the human figure is depicted. That is to say that materials and technique combine with subject matter to create a statement in visual terms about the soul’s depth of experience that affect the viewer in a particularly profound manner.



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