Aus dem Beinhaus der Qualen

Illustration Collaborations by Gordon Henderson and Roshida Abira Ali for a collection of fourteen stories written between 1909 and 1922, by Roshida's great, great uncle, J. E. Poritsky. This book was published by Verlag Lindenstruth in 2006 and edited by Robert Bloch.

Portrait of Jacob Elias Poritsky, Ruth Poritsky and Helen Orzolkowska Poritsky by Roshida Abira Ali, painted in 2018 from a 1908 photograph.

Jakob Elias Poritsky
1879 - 1935

My grandmother, Irma Gutel Freeman always used to tell us that her uncle was a famous writer, and that was true. Jakob Elias Poritsky wrote quite a few books and participated in the making of experimental films when film making was new. JE was born in 1876, in Lomza, Poland. While still a child his family and most of the Jewish people, left Lomaz, His family immigrated with many others to Karlsruhe, Germany. My great grand mother, Teresa was JE Poritsky’s sister. JE might have been a Jew, but he considered himself an Atheist. Poritsky the elder was a religious and traditional father. He discouraged and disapproaved of JE, who was not only an atheist, but an actor.


Jakob Elias Poritzky moved to Paris to study acting, where he became involved in making some of the earliest horror movies. He moved back to Berlin in 1894 and began to study philosophy in 1897. In 1915 and 1916, he was the head director and dramatic advisor of the Baden State Theater in Karlsruhe. Poritzky acted as the literary director of the Dreimasken Publishing House in Berlin. JE Poritzky was a prolific writer. Recently in France and Germany, his work has been re-discovered and re-published.


In 2004 my mother, Sylvia Jean Freeman - Ali was contacted by Robert Bloch, who was doing a project with Verlag Linderstruth publishing. He had currated a collection of short stories by Jacob Elias Poritsky, and he wanted a photograph. This is how my frequent collaborator and husband, Gordon Henderson and I came to illustrate Aus dem Beinhaus der Qualen.

Jakob Elias Poritzky had a wife, with the maiden name Helene Orzolkowska. Helen was a poet. Their daughter, Ruth Poritsky became an accomplished cello player and music teacher. She was my grandmother, first cousin and her closest and dearest friend. JE Poritsky died on February 1, 1935, he was 49. My grandmother moved to the States in 1925, she was 22 years old. She was followed by her parents, older sister and two brothers.But her Aunt Helen and cousin Ruth did not get out in time.The family in the United States worked together, writing letters, securing employment, getting recommendations and documents together. Ruth Poritsky was excited and packed to go, She wrote to my grandmother asking what she should bring? But there was a shift in plans, the United States, FDR and Congress voted to create a quota, they intentionally wanted to stop the German Jewish people from coming into America for safety. An official letter from the office of immigration was sent to Irma and Louis Freeman, informing them of the quota, and letting them know that they could re-apply in three years. My great aunt Ruth Poritsky and her mother, Helene Orzolkowska - Poritsky were murdered in Auschwitz.