Israeli artist Maya Cohen-Levy is speaking animatedly when she catches her breath and her eyes fill with tears. She’s just noticed four colored sketches framed on the wall in front of her — drawn by her mother as a 12-year- old hiding alone from the Nazis in a Polish widow’s cellar.
“This shook us up,” she says, recalling the story behind the sketches, on display for the first time after being donated to Yad Vashem Museum of Holocaust Art. “It’s like we were living on the edge of a chasm and suddenly we had to look in.”

Renata Braun, who faced death if discovered by the Germans, stayed in a basement in 1943 and 1944. While fugitives such as Anne Frank wrote, Renata was calmly working with pencil, gouache and watercolor. She copied photos of people she no longer saw from the family album, and scenes from a book of the Polish epic poem “Pan Tadeusz.” Each sketch is highly detailed and neatly signed in the corner.

The pictures arrived this month at the museum in Jerusalem after director Yehudit Inbar happened to notice a short mention of the drawings made by Cohen-Levy during an interview with an Israeli newspaper.

“I was so excited because there are no such finds like this today from the Holocaust period, especially those of children,” Inbar says of the day she came across the sketches mentioned in the paper. “Children were hidden in very difficult circumstances. An adult can save things, but a child? Here we have a girl, a talented girl, and she saves these drawings and takes them with her.”