NYC graffiti mural from Queens artist to honor Holocaust hero

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A graffiti mural honoring a Holocaust hero who saved the lives of thousands of Jews in Hungary is set to be unveiled in Nolita on the first night of Hanukkah. 

On a wall outside Spring Street’s Vig Bar, Queens-born graffiti artist Fernando “SKI” Romero has been spray painting a 35-foot-by-12-foot image of the late Tibor Baranski, a young Catholic priest who who faced death in rescuing at least 3,000 Jews during Nazi occupation. 

“The fact that [the reveal night] ended up being a holiday about fighting hatred, a holiday about being a light on the nation, all of that just fits so perfectly with what we were doing,” said Craig Dershowitz, CEO of the nonprofit Artists 4 Israel, which seeks to combat anti-Semitism and spearheaded the mural.

In 1944, the 22-year-old Budapest cleric saw it as his religious duty to aid Jews being persecuted and killed by the Nazis in his homeland.     

Driving to roundups in the papal nuncio’s Rolls Royce, the young rebel bluffed his way past guards and flashed official-looking papers, in one case swaying the release of dozens of captive Jews destined for death camps, according to the Buffalo News.

He also helped set up safe houses and printed fake documents for Jews that enabled them to flee the country, according to New York Jewish Week.

The mural was done by Queens-born graffiti artist Fernando “SKI” Romero.
The mural is outside Spring Street’s Vig Bar.

“This gentleman dedicated and risked his life for humanity,” Romero told The Post. “I don’t look at it like he saved only Jews…he basically risked his own [life] for others.”

The Good Samaritan barely survived a death march after being captured by Soviets in 1945. He fled Hungary for Italy during the 1956 revolution, where he eventually left the priesthood and married his wife, Katalin, WBFO reported. Together they eventually moved the US, settling in Buffalo, NY, where he lived until his death in 2019. 

Romero’s Baranski mural, produced in a dotted style akin to Pop artist Roy Lichtenstein, also features a QR code that passersby are encouraged to scan. This opens a link detailing Baranski’s story and his selfless actions.

“I’m excited for people to see it and I’m excited for them to find out who this person is,” Romero said. “This person did all of this, and what a better way to commemorate this soul by glorifying them in the way that they should be.”

The painting is part of Artists 4 Israel’s ongoing series titled “Righteous Among the Nations Global Mural Project.”

The murals project aims to educate people on the horrors of the Holocaust outside the classroom and bolster cross-cultural support in fighting anti-Semitism.
Romero is excited for people to learn about Baranski with the mural.

In addition to honoring non-Jews like Baranski who risked death to assist the persecuted people, the murals project aims to educate people on the horrors of the Holocaust outside the classroom and bolster cross-cultural support in fighting anti-Semitism.

In New York City, violence against Jews has soared, with anti-Semitic hate crimes increasing 125 percent in November, compared to the same month in 2021, per NYPD data.  

“We realized there was lot of shame and blame in how we were approaching the discussion of anti-Semitism,” Dershowitz said. “We wanted to create heroes within countries and societies and communities … and say, ‘Here’s an opportunity. This is what standing up to hate and fascism looks like.’”

The mural of Baranski will be on display for at least nine months. 

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