Born to a Jewish family in Opava, Moravia, in 1901, Haas attended an art school in Opava from 1907-1919, where he learned landscape and cityscape painting.
A Living Culture in the Ghetto (1945/66) (drypoint and aquatint / part of the Ben Uri collection)
Leo Haas biography
In 1919 he attended the Karlsruhe Art Academy. Haas moved to Berlin in 1922, where he was influenced by German Expressionism, Goya, and Toulouse-Lautrec. After moving to Vienna in 1925 he worked as an illustrator for the working-class press.
The following year Haas moved back to Czechoslovakia and worked in Opava from 1926 to 1938 as a painter, book illustrator, and stage designer.
Moravia was occupied by the Germans in March 1939. was arrested by the Nazis. Haas was arrested in 1942 in Ostrava and interned in Terezin-Theresienstadt in October. Haas made drawings documenting conditions in the camp but kept them hidden, hoping to have them smuggled to the outside world. The drawings were discovered and Haas was imprisoned within the camp and subsequently sent to Auschwitz in October 1944. He was then moved to Sachsenhausen and Mauthausen before being liberated in May 1945.
After the war he moved back to Czechoslovakia and retrieved more than 400 drawings from Terezin. He was also reunited with his wife Erna (who died in 1955) and adopted the son of Bedrich Fritta, an artist and friend who had died in Auschwitz.
In 1955 Haas moved to East Berlin and worked for the film company DEFA and the German Democratic Republic’s television network. His works have been exhibited widely throughout the world. Leo Haas died in 1983.
Ben Uri holds a series of ten etchings by Leo Haas documenting life in the Terezin-Theresienstadt ghetto including the image shown above.