Prof. Karl Stojka was born on April 20, 1931 in a Rom family of the Roman Catholic faith in Wampersdorf in the Austrian province of Burgenland. Karl had five brothers and sisters. The Stojka family had been living in Austria for over 200 years, travelling across the country as horse dealers in their caravan. When Germany invaded and occupied Austria in 1938, Jews, Sinti and Roma were immediately excluded from society and turned into outcasts.
In 1943, at the age of only 12 years, he was deported to the concentration camp of Birkenau, together with his mother and his five brothers and sisters. Already at the beginning of 1942, his father had been murdered by the Nazis in the concentration camp of Mauthausen. Karl Stojka was one of the very few to survive the horrors of the Nazi camps and he accepted the burden of his fate as a great responsibility towards life:
Karl Stojka based his reliability as a witness to history not only on the portrayal of his life as member of an ethnic group prosecuted by the Nazis, but rather on the fact that, as a human being, and regardless of race, religion and origin, he was deeply convinced that the words “Never forget” represent both a mission and a challenge for the young and for the future humanization of our society.
Having led a life dedicated to memory and the work of truth and reconciliation, in 1985 he began to paint and worked through his tale of persecution and autobiographical experiences in his internationally acknowledged Holocaust Series of more than 50 paintings.
The merits of Karl Stojka as an artist and witness to history have left their marks through a wide range of exhibitions around the globe with participations in international museum exhibitions at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC, the Wien Museum in Vienna and the Kunsthaus in Zurich, as much as in numerous catalogues documenting his artistic work, in his biography and uncountable lectures and interviews. His life-long function as a role model and his engagement as a pioneer in the work of truth and reconciliation has been appreciated by numerous persons of high standing and also honored with several awards.
Indefatigably striving for a broader and more profound ‘cultural memory’ of the Nazi era and for lasting remembrance of the victims of the holocaust, Karl Stojka died in Vienna on April 9, 2003.
His granddaughter, Bianca Stojka-Davis is in charge of the administration of his artistic estate.