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Vilna Gaon Museum of Jewish History
Vilniaus Gaono Žydų Istorijos Muziejus


Kopel Simelovitz

Kopel Simelovitz (1900-1944) was born in Šeduva (Lithuania), in 1900. In 1915, during World War I, the Tsarist Army accused the Jews who lived near the Eastern Front of probable collaboration with Germany and expelled the Jews from Kaunas and Courland regions into the Russian frontier. As a result, the young Simelovitz settled in Vitebsk (close to Marc Chagall’s birthplace) and became a student of painter Yehuda Pen, who was also a former Chagall’s teacher. After the War, Simelovitz returned to Šeduva and worked as ant art teacher at the local elementary school.

In 1924, after the death of his mother, Simelovitz emigrated to Haifa (then – Mandatory Palestine), where he became. a photographer and worked in Ein Hai moshav (today Kfar Malal). Unable to stand the hot and humid climate, he left to join his uncle, Samuel Behr, owner of a frozen egg importing company in London. After getting some knowledge, Simelovitz was sent to Ghent as financial manager of one of the subsidiaries. When the company was closed, he devoted all his time to painting and studied at the Ghent Academy from 1932 to 1937. He exhibited
for the first time at the Studiekring in Ghent in 1935. Later he rented a studio in Sint Maartens-Latem, the famous
art center of the time.

In 1939, one year before the Belgium’s Nazi occupation, Simelovitz obtained Belgian nationality. Due to this for 3 years he managed to live at his home in Ghent at 4 Rue des Sœurs Noires without hiding. In 1942, he was forced to register as a Jew. He was arrested and imprisoned in Ghent from December 1942 until June 30, 1943, when he was sent to the Mechelen transit camp Six weeks later he was deported to Auschwitz where he died.
Kopel Simelovitz. 1935 © Jewish museum of Belgium 
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