When he was 11, in the midst of World War II and all of the bleak reports trickling out about the fate of European Jewry, Jordan B. Chadrow says he heard breaking news on the radio about the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
He never forgot it.
The incredible courage involved in this act of Jewish resistance in Nazi-occupied Poland – which lasted from April 19 to May 16, 1943, with street fighters combating the final transport of the ghetto to the Treblinka extermination camp — greatly inspired the young Baltimore native.
“The world was stunned,” Chadrow recalls. “The resistance commander was Mordechai Anielewicz, who led Jewish fighters short of food, firearms and no military experience. They battled the Nazis and the Nazis’ allies for freedom, against all odds. Jews worldwide [felt] the pride that I was experiencing.”
It was back then that Chadrow, who grew up in the Park Circle area, decided to put his artistic talents to good use and memorialize the uprising in which 13,000 Jews eventually perished.
“I decided to draw a battle scene someday, so that others would know our history,” he says.
In dribs and drabs, the project took more than seven decades, but Chadrow, now 87, says he finished the painting in time for the 75th anniversary of the uprising, which was the single largest Jewish revolt of the war.
“I always had it in my mind to make this piece,” says Chadrow, a retired advertising art designer. “I started it a long time ago. It comes to me every once in a while – ideas on what I can do to make it better.”
A self-proclaimed history buff, Chadrow, who lives at Weinberg Village in Owings Mills, is a piece of living history himself. A Korean War-era veteran, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and was stationed in such locales as North Africa, Europe and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
“I once went riding in the [Sierra Maestra] mountains,” he recalls of his time in Cuba in the 1950s. “If I knew [the late Cuban revolutionary and leader Fidel] Castro was hiding out there with his forces, I would’ve never gone. I guess I’m lucky I made it out alive.”
After returning to Baltimore, he attended the Maryland Institute College of Art on the G.I. Bill, majored in advertising design and graduated with honors in 1956. For most of his career, he worked in the advertising and publishing fields.
In addition, Chadrow wrote and illustrated humor columns and several humor books.
Linda Burstyn, Weinberg Village’s coordinator of resident services, has known Chadrow since she began working at the senior living residential complex 12 years ago. She sees him on almost a daily basis.
“He’s a very talented artist and one of our longest current residents,” Burstyn says. “He’s got a nice group of friends here, and he used to contribute to our newsletter, which is now defunct, for several years. He’s been here even before I arrived.”
Currently, Chadrow’s abstract painting – which depicts a Nazi, scattered bricks and a fierce battle scene – is hanging on his apartment wall. But the artist – a divorcee who has two children and five grandchildren – hopes it will inspire people to learn more about the uprising and to never forget this seminal event.
That’s why he wanted to share the artwork with readers of Jmore and make them think about the anniversary and its significance.
“I feel great that it is finally finished. It was now or never,” he says. “The heroism of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising fighters will never be forgotten.”
Lisa Shifren is a Baltimore-based freelance writer and photographer. Editor-in-Chief Alan Feiler contributed to this article.