North­eastern Uni­ver­sity stu­dent Emili Kaufman has been selected to receive the 2011–2012 Gideon Klein Award to study the art­work of German sur­re­alist painter Felix Nuss­baum, who was killed at Auschwitz in 1944.

The award—which includes a $5,000 prize—honors the memory of Gideon Klein, a bril­liant pianist and com­poser who was impris­oned in con­cen­tra­tion camps until his death in 1945. North­eastern dis­tin­guished pro­fessor of chem­istry Bill Giessen, who grew up in Nazi Ger­many and passed away in 2010, estab­lished the award in 1997 in memory of his mother, Gustel Cor­mann Giessen.

For Kaufman, win­ning the award car­ries a con­sid­er­able amount of per­sonal sig­nif­i­cance. Her father, a Jewish pro­fessor of illus­tra­tion, recently passed away.

By win­ning this award, I feel like I will be able to honor my father as well as those who were per­se­cuted in the Holo­caust,” said Kaufman, a senior com­mu­ni­ca­tion studies major with a minor in Jewish Studies.

Lori Lefkovitz, Rud­erman pro­fessor and director of the Jewish studies pro­gram, was part of the selec­tion com­mittee that chose Kaufman as the university’s next Gideon Klein scholar. Kaufman’s pro­posal, Lefkovitz said, was par­tic­u­larly heart­felt and sincere.

Kaufman studies art and Jewish studies partly to sus­tain the memory of her own father,” Lefkovitz said. “This poignant con­flu­ence of memo­ri­al­izing tes­ti­fies to Northeastern’s ongoing com­mit­ment to cre­atively incor­po­rate the past into the future, trans­forming suf­fering into blessing through art and scholarship.”

As part of her project, Kaufman plans to con­duct research on Nussbaum’s body of work and pro­duce an artistic tribute to the artist under the guid­ance of art pro­fessor Mira Cantor. Kaufman will present her find­ings and share her art­work during Northeastern’s Holo­caust Aware­ness Week, in March.

According to Kaufman, Nuss­baum com­mu­ni­cated his fear of being cap­tured by German armed forces through two famous paintings—“Self Por­trait with Jewish Iden­tity Card” and “Tri­umph of Death”—that he cre­ated shortly before he was killed.

He’s inter­esting because he went through phases like Picasso,” Kaufman said. “Based on the colors he used, you could tell when he was happy or when he was sad.”

After grad­u­ating next spring, Kaufman would like to work as the fundraising director for the Jewish Museum, in New York City.

I’m driven by the incred­ible his­tory of Judaism,” she said. “I think their story says a lot about humanity and what people are capable of doing.”