Jacques Markiel was born on July 20, 1911 in Lodz, Poland. As a young boy, his mother identified his artistic talent, and against his father’s will, she sent young Jacque to drawing lessons with the famous artist Isaac Brauner.
Markiel, later in his life, graduated from the Fine Art Academy in Cracow. Soon afterwards, he received a merit scholarship and moved to the Belleville district of Paris in 1933. In Paris, Markiel’s talent was quickly identified and he earned his respect in the art field. He obtained third prize in the Ecole des Beaux Arts competition and was invited to study in the atelier of the respected painter Jean Souverbie.
When his Jewish identity was discovered in 1943, Markiel was sent to Drancy. In that same year, on June 23, he was deported on convoy no. 55 to Auschwitz. Markiel was forced to participate in the cruel death march to Gross Rosen, where he suffered much abuse. Luckily, he was one of the few who survived. During the holocaust, he was assigned to work in the coal mines at Jawischowitz, a subcamp of Auschwitz. During the war, Markiel figured out how to use his painting as a means of survival.
He painted a baker’s daughter and in return, she gave him bread when no one was looking. Markiel then smuggled the bread out of the camp and shared it with others. Suddenly aware of the power of his paintings, he drew a ten-year-old Hungarian Jewish boy, who also worked in the coalmine. The boy gave the picture to a Polish woman who, in return, supplied him with the food he needed to live.
After the liberation, Markiel returned to France, and sadly, discovered that his family had been exterminated in the war.
Supported by his wife, Esther, Markiel devoted the rest of his life to painting. After his death, some of his pieces were donated to the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. Jacques Markiel passed away in Paris in 2008.