Jacques Gotko (ne Jakow Gotkowski) was born in 1900 in Odessa. Fearing pogroms there, his family immigrated to Paris in 1905. His father, a factory worker, died eight years later leaving a widow and two young children. Despite his family's straitened financial circumstances, Gotko was sent to study architecture and set design at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. On completing his studies he worked as a set designer for the cinema. His paintings were well received and exhibited at prestigious galleries.
In July 1941 Gotko was arrested as a Russian national, released a few days later, then re - arrested, this time as a Jew, and sent to the Compiegne camp. All the artworks in his studio in Charente were declared "degenerate" and destroyed by the Nazis. In Compiegne, and also in Drancy, the camp to which he was later transferred, he continued his artistic activities, producing woodcuts, drawings and watercolors, though primarily known as a portrait painter. Some time after his arrival at Drancy his mother and sister were interned in the camp, and he witnessed their deportation to Auschwitz in November 1942. Gotko never got over this tragic event. On July 31, 1943 he too was sent to Auschwitz and he died of typhus shortly afterwards. Some of the paintings he had done in the camp came into the possession of fellow artist internees, including Isis - Israel Kischka, and the scientist and historian Georges Wellers, who donated them to the art collection of the Ghetto Fighters' House. Others are part of the collection of the Musee d'Histoire Contemporaine in Paris