The art piece follows a similar piece by the same artist called the White Crucifixion, where he showed the suffering of Jews during the Nazi Holocaust by using the image of Jesus Christ, a Jew. In this masterpiece, the artist continues to discuss the plight of the Jews. In this art piece, he shows Jesus crucified on the right side. Beside him is a large green scroll of law (Torah) held by an angel. The same angel holds a candle and blows a trumpet.
At the foot of the cross, on the right, is an engulfing inferno consuming a ghetto as people flee from the fire. On the foreground is a woman holding to her suckling baby carried by a mule, possibly escaping the horrors of persecution. The background is all orange and amber to show the immense heat experienced by subjects on the image. On the left of the artwork is a ship that seems to sink (in the background). Survivors are trying to swim to the show in a desperate attempt to save their lives. One of the survivors is a bare-chested woman. Close to the crucified Jesus is a man holding to a ladder as if in an attempt to reach the Torah or the crucified Jesus.
In early 1942 a group of about 800 European Jews, including a hundred children, boarded a passenger boat (called the Struma) to escape the horrors of Holocaust. Their boat had mechanical issues and stalled new Turkey. Unfortunately, the country did not let them in. Their boat drifted in the Black Sea where they ran out of food supplies. Their woes were compounded when a Russian submarine torpedo the boat killing everyone on board except one gentleman. Marc captures the desperation as these Jews try to save their lives from the sinking ship.
On the other hand, the fires shown on the right was the persecution that Jews faced across Europe from the Nazi-Fascist rule at the time, Marc Chagall himself had himself been exiled to the United States due to these persecutions. In this masterpiece, Marc Chagall shows his Christian faith. Je also charges at Christians who have been persecuting the very Jews from which their faith was born. He embodies that anti-Semitism arose from the very people who proclaim their faith in Jesus and that the pain Jews were facing was similar to what he went through during crucifixion.