Malva Schalek

Born February 18, 1882 in Prague; died 1944 (possibly in Auschwitz)

Background
Schalek attended elementary school in Prague and high school in Hohenelbe in the Sudetenland. She later studied art at the Frauenakademie in Munich and then moved to Vienna. By 1910 she had established her career as an artist, primarily making a living by painting commissioned portraits, landscapes and interiors in Vienna and regions of the Sudetenland. She fled Vienna in March 1938 at the time of the Anschluss and went to Leitmeritz to stay with her brother Robert, a judge. Robert Schalek was hidden by his non-Jewish wife, Toni, and her family during the war. Malva Schalek fled to Prague after the Nazi takeover of the Sudetenland in October 1938.

Deportation to Theresienstadt
As a Jew, Schalek was forced to report for internment on February 8, 1942 where she was included on Transport W #830 from Prague to Theresienstadt. Just before her departure, she wrote a letter to her sister, stating “My dearest Julia, at the moment when I have to leave Prague without knowing whether I will ever return, my saddest thought is that I might not ever see you, all of you, again...”

In Theresienstadt Schalek was assigned to the Hamburg-Barracke. Schalek made approximately 140 images in pencil, charcoal and watercolor of internees and their hardships at Theresienstadt. Some art supplies might have been included in packages which were sent by her brother's family. More packages were sent to Schalek by Grete Kroll, her former housekeeper and close friend.

Transfer to Auschwitz
According to a Czech journalist, Schalek refused several requests to paint a portrait of a collaborator, in spite of his threat to have her deported to Auschwitz. Eventually it was arranged for her to be included on a transport. Schalek was sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau in May, 1944. According to reports of inmates, at the time of her deportation, Schalek gave many of her drawings to a fellow inmate and requested they be delivered to her brother. Robert Schalek received some 140 works of art after the liberation.

The exact circumstances of her death remain unknown.

Bibliography

Correspondence from Malva Schalek and Robert Schalek, private collection, Chicago, Ill.

Aurednickova, Anna. “A Martyr,” Svobodné Noviny, May 29, 1946, 5.

Novitch, Miriam, Lucy S. Dawidowicz, and Tom L. Freudenheim. Spiritual Resistance: Art from Concentration Camps, 1940-1945. Philadelphia, 1981.