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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

The Gallery’s Acknowledgement of Country, and information on culturally sensitive and restricted content and the use of historic language in the collection can be found here.

Binem Grunstein

c. 1948
an unknown artist

gelatin silver photograph on paper (mount: 21.0 cm x 15.3 cm, sheet: 13.7 cm x 8.5 cm, image: 10.3 cm x 7.2 cm)

Binem (Bill) Grunstein (1921-2013), garment manufacturer and artist, escaped the Warsaw Ghetto in 1941, having seen his parents and most of his family members die of typhus or disappear. (At the beginning of the war there were more than 350 000 Jews living in Warsaw; at the end, there were about 11 500). Grunstein escaped to a farm, where he was concealed and employed from 1942 to 1943. When joined by his brother Mark, he had to leave; the pair were captured and taken to concentration camps. In all, Grunstein was in fourteen camps, including Dachau. Throughout the war, on a scrap-metal cigarette box, he engraved the names of each camp, and the dates he was there; the box is now in the Holocaust Museum, Washington DC. In various camps Grunstein made aeroplane parts, drew calligraphy, wrote sign notices and cut bread, but his talent for painting contributed significantly to his survival; he made many portraits of Nazi officers. After the war, in a displaced persons’ camp in Eggenfelden, Germany, he met Chana (Hania) Bornstein, his future wife. She went to Sweden, but he was refused entry; instead, he and Mark set sail for Australia, the first country by which they happened to have been accepted. They arrived in Australia in May 1949, speaking no English; Binem served his mandatory two years’ labour washing dishes for the Australian Army in Casula. In 1951, Hania joined him; they lived in a one-bedroom flat in Bondi Junction with Mark, and in due course their two children, Harry and Sarah. Binem continued his dishwashing for an extra year, but as Hania was skilled in tailoring, at night the couple made patterns, cut out and sewed dresses. One of the first businessmen to give them work was Leo Berkeley of the famed ‘House of Mink’ at Burwood; within six months of supplying Berkeley with thirty dresses the couple had thirty employees. In time, Grunstein studied fashion design and art at East Sydney Technical College. Every weekend, he painted; over succeeding decades he became a teacher, fellow and director of the Royal Art Society, with which he frequently exhibited views of Sydney. Binem outlived Hania by 14 years. Sarah Grunstein is a New-York based pianist of international reputation; Harry Grunstein is an endocrinologist in Sydney.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of Harry Grunstein and Sarah Grunstein in memory of their father 2015

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

Artist and subject

Binem Grunstein (age 27 in 1948)

Donated by

Harry Grunstein (1 portrait)

Sarah Grunstein (1 portrait)

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

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