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Painting Resilience:

The Life and Art of Fred Terna


Julia Mayer's Painting Resilience: The Life and Art of Fred Terna interweaves the language of the art works and the personal stories of Fred Terna and his first wife Stella who survived Terezin and Auschwitz. The biography addresses traumatic memories of survivors that one can never escape.

Renate Evers, Leo Baeck Institute

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Painting Resilience

Painting Resilience is Julia Mayer’s very personal exploration of the role Fred Terna’s art played in surviving four concentration camps; his post-WWII marriage to his emotionally scarred childhood sweetheart — a fellow survivor; their escape to France, Canada, and the United States; their divorce; and his subsequent happy marriage to a daughter of survivors and the family they created.


Julia has known Fred since she was a young girl. During a tour of his studio and art archive in her mid-20s — when Fred was 91 — Fred patiently answered many of Julia’s questions with the familiar stories he had crafted over the course of Q&A sessions following lectures, and in response to journalists.

When Julia pressed Fred on how exactly he moved back to Prague following liberation, “he insisted the story wasn’t interesting and politely declined to answer my questions. It’s in that moment that this book was born,” she writes. Fred himself says that living through it was luck but living with it takes skill. Julia wanted to discover and share what those skills are and how Fred came to acquire them.


Included are more than two dozen reproductions of Fred’s works, along with personal photos captured by Fred’s son, photographer Daniel Terna.

Proceeds from this book will be donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, holder of the largest collection of Fred's work.

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Best Quality:

Standard Edition:

Painting Resilience

The Life and Art of Fred Terna

About Julia Mayer

In Painting Resilience, the talented Julia Mayer depicts recurring motifs running through Fred Terna's work, and explores how life and art intersect before, during, and after the Holocaust. Taking you inside Terna's studio to understand his process and his philosophy, Mayer invites you to share in her and Terna's deep personal rapport.

— Kate Chertavian, Kate Chertavian Fine Art

Julia Mayer

Julia Mayer Author Photo

Julia Mayer is always searching for fascinating stories and has built a career on asking people to share theirs. Fred Terna’s is one of the most fascinating stories Julia has heard, and is captured in her latest book, Painting Resilience: The Life & Art of Fred Terna (November 2020, JBJ Vision). She also enjoys learning about the experiences of both young adults and philanthropists in her role as Director of Philanthropy at Year Up, a nonprofit that provides workforce development training for 18-24 year olds. Julia pursues opportunities that enable her to build trust with interesting people so she can ask the questions other people don’t.

Julia’s first book, the young adult novel Eyes in the Mirror, was published in 2011 by Sourcebooks. Julia has a Masters in Management from Harvard University, a BA in Philosophy and Psychology from Boston University, and is a graduate of Bard High School Early College. An avid swimmer and kayaker, she lives in Boston, MA with her husband.

Photo by Lili Boxer

About Fred

Fred Terna (b. 1923) is a Holocaust survivor and painter living and working in Brooklyn, NY. Fred was born in Vienna, and lived in Prague from 1926-1940. From 1941-1945, he was an inmate in German concentration camps, among them Theresienstadt, Auschwitz, and Dachau.


Fred’s canvases seek to address the psychological space of trauma, often incorporating the charged symbols of chimneys and ash to abstract effect.

His work is included in a variety of private and public collections including the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (Washington, DC); Smithsonian Institution (Washington, DC); The Albertina Collection (Vienna, AT); The Ghetto Fighters Museum (Israel); and the Yad Vashem Museum (Israel). Fred has been profiled by National Geographic, Die Welt, and the Times of Israel, among many other publications worldwide. Painting Resilience is the first full-length biography about him.

Painting Resilience is a story about family, human injury, suffering, death, life, beauty, and extraordinary strength. In these pages, I feel artist Fred Terna’s indomitable spirit, his profound wisdom, and considerable insights about life before and during the Third Reich. Perhaps, more importantly, in them, I see lessons germane and apropos for today.

Willa M. Johnson, University of Mississippi


Eloquent and moving. Not many of us can witness to the witnesses, but Julia Mayer's intimate cross-generational account of Fred Terna's story as artist and Holocaust survivor makes clear that even across many generations, it is possible to carry this legacy forward.

— Laura Levitt, Temple University

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Contact and Booking Requests

Julia is available for speaking engagements and to lead book group discussions of Painting Resilience. Contact her to check availability. Bulk purchase arrangements also available.

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