This lithograph is a powerful and evocative portrait by Paul Citroen of the great entertainer Chaya Ruchel Goldstein. Citroen had a remarkable ability to capture his subjects’ personality and history, as he plainly has done here.
Born in a Polish ghetto in the town of Rypin, Goldstein moved with her family to Berlin when she was ten years old, fleeing the pogroms in Eastern Europe. After completing her education, she went to work in a bookstore—but dreamed of a career as an actress or dancer. Within a few years, she had grown to be a famous singer and dancer, connecting the Yiddish folk culture of her youth with modern Western culture, and living an exuberant life in the artistic avant-garde circles of Berlin.
In 1933, Chaja Goldstein fled to the Netherlands because of the rise of the Nazis, quickly integrating herself into the community of Berliners there. It was there that she met Citroen; he would go on to portray Goldstein in numerous photographs, prints, drawings, and a striking oil painting in 1938.
In December 1942, Goldstein was transported to the Westerbork prison camp, where she performed in Max Ehrlich’s Westerbork Concentration Camp Theater Group’s variety show. (Ehrlich had been a successful actor and director in the German comedy and cabaret scene of the 1930s. He formed an entertainment troupe at the Westerbork camp after he was deported there in 1942. He was murdered in 1944.) Goldstein managed to gain release in 1943.
In 1948, Goldstein moved to the United States in search of her old Jewish audience. Her farewell to the Netherlands was celebrated in a big way, with a farewell performance on May 12, 1948 in the Amsterdam Stadsschouwburg, for which Citroen did a drawing of Goldstein to illustrate the program. This print is a beautiful recreation of that 1948 drawing.