44070—St Edith Stein—Finite, Eternal Being 2001

Painting of St Edith Stein by Victor Gordon
Oil on board. 60 x 39 cm
Collection: Constitutional Court, South Africa

This painting addresses my concern for a particular gross injustice. In this instance an individual was put to death for the fact of her Jewish racial origins although she had previously converted to Christianity! And then to compound this tragedy, many decades later, her fate was manipulated by a conscience-ridden Vatican to assuage their guilt

Edith Stein was born a Jewess, gained her Phd in philosophy during WWI, became an academic under the illustrious Professor Husserl, who chose her for his assistant over her classmate Martin Heidegger. She later underwent an epiphany and taking the vow of silence converted to become a Carmelite nun. She took the name Sister Theresa (after Theresa of Avila). Ironically and tragically she was nevertheless eventually rounded up by the Nazis at Echt in Holland and gassed at Auschwitz for being a Jewess.

Her story has an astounding sequel: the Catholic church during the nineteen eighties, racked by the guilt of not condemning the Nazis treatment of the Jews during WWII, decided to Canonize their sister Theresa (after Theresa of Avila) and she eventually became St Edith Stein.

The number in the title is her Auschwitz designated number and the title text is the title of her doctoral thesis. The superimposed blue ’J’ was stamped onto Jews’ identity documents and passports to single them out by the Nazis for later “sonderbehandlung”, special treatment – a euphemism for extermination.


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