"Art and Objects of Oppression and Resistance"

Objects Related to the Holocaust and the Art of Oppression and Resistance in the Permanent Collection of the Temple Judea Museum (list incomplete) November 2017

Images available upon request. 

 

OBJECTS

I. PRESS PHOTOGRAPHS:

This collection includes actual photographs that were printed in newspapers around the world. Press photos, often referred to as Vernacular Photography, are a relatively new area of collecting for museums in recognition of their rarity and connection to the immediacy of historic events.

The Ovens at Terezin                                                                     JH21.10.1652
From Yad VaShem, Jerusalem

 

Memorial to Jewish Soldiers Boarded Up by Nazis                  D497.16.3171
From the newspaper caption: "American Soldiers look under planks to read the inscriptions to Jewish soldiers killed, September, 1918 in Verdun.  The Germans boarded up the memorial at Douamont Hill after Verdun veterans protested the Nazi plan to tear it down."

 

Teacher and Child                                                                           D550.17.3247
 

ACME Photo Service (June 28, 1945)
Handwritten description on the back of the photograph: Czech teacher, Irene Mendel, instructs Jewish orphan in kindergarten class, Belsen, Germany.

 

Anti-Nazi Protests in New York - 1938                                       JH30.16.3150
Caption on the back: "Jewish Merchants in the Bronx Closed Their Stores for One Hour"

 

Soldiers Marching in Tel-Aviv                                                      D502.16.3182
Associated Press Photo (June 4, 1942)
Caption: "Jewish soldiers marching in Tel-Aviv during the last recruiting campaign. They marched through the streets of Tel-Aviv, a modern city in Palestine, June 4, 1942."

 

First Jewish Combat Unit                                                               D480.14.3052
Wide World Photos (March 17, 1945)
Caption: "SOMEWHERE IN PALESTINE - The Jewish Brigade, a Unit of the British Army, is the first Jewish Combat Unit in two thousand years to fight under the Jewish flag. Palestinians and men from 10 European countries, including members of the underground who came here after their countries were liberated, are serving as volunteers, The Brigade is shown on parade at the Sarafand Trainging Camp on the eve of its departure to Italy.

 

Warsaw Ghetto Trolley Car for Jews                                          JPH53.14.3032
In the Jewish Ghettos established by the Nazis all forms of daily life were regulated and controlled. This photo shows a restricted  "Jewish" trolley in the Marinow district of the Warsaw Ghetto.

Life in a Jewish Refugee Camp in Italy, August 11, 1947                    D510.16.3193
Trying to bring normality to the chaos of war. Learning goes on!

 

Jewish War Orphans Arrive in NYC                                             D511.16.3194

 

German Storm Trooper Blocking Entry to a Jewish Shop - Boycott of Jewish Merchants - April 1933                                                            D310.10.1601
Chicago Sun Times and Chicago Daily News

 

Refugee Jews in Rubber Raft Near Rome                                       D304.10.1595
"...Forward into Darkness"

 

Keep the Gates Open                                                                                   D306.10.1597
AP Wire Photo
After 15 days at sea Jewish immigrants crowd the rail of the Haviva Reik at Haifa Harbor, June 8, 1946, under escort of British destroyer.  The Hebrew sign says, "Keep the Gates Open, We are Not the Last.

 

Jewish Refugees at a Cyprus Detention Camp                           D307.10.1598

 

The Final Solution                                                                           D312.10.1604
A set of Press Photos which appear to be from the National Museum of the Holocaust in Washington DC. They were used by the JCRC (Jewish Community Relations Council) for educational purposes.

 

 

II. OTHER PHOTOGRAPHS:
Judith Sternchuss and Her Doll (Shooting Star)                                   JPH8.09.1441
Photograph
The Temple Judea Museum's exhibition, Shooting Star told stories of hope and despair. It found its impetus through this photograph of a little girl bought on EBay. The 1938 photograph is of Judith Sternchuss (Shooting Star) who was killed in 1944 at the Stutthof concentration camp. In the photograph a beautiful, young Judith lovingly cradles her doll. Her fate was ascertained only many years later by a childhood Christian friend who had kept the photo, as a keepsake, and sought out her friend’s fate.

NOTE: A letter, from Judith's friend's daughter, which tells her story, is in the file folder for this photograph. The photograph was sent to the friend, a non-Jew, from Judith's hiding place. Of five Jewish friends, only one survived the Nazi Holocaust.

 

Shooting Star                                                                                               JPH9.09.1442
Photograph Still Life
Artist: Stan Singer

Shooting Star tells stories of hope and despair. It found its beginning with the story of a child’s doll left behind when its owner escaped Nazi Germany for Palestine during WWII. It found its impetus through a photograph of a little girl bought on EBay. The 1938 photograph was of Judith Sternchuss (Shooting Star) who was killed in 1944 at the Stutthof concentration camp. In the photograph a beautiful, young Judith lovingly cradles her doll. Her fate was ascertained only many years later by a childhood Christian friend who had kept the photo, as a keepsake, and sought out her friend’s fate.

Artist Stan Singer used the photograph of Judith and her doll as inspiration for this photograph he created for the Temple Judea Museum exhibition, "Shooting Star" in

 

Galerie Caspari                                                                                            D533.17.3226
Catalogue - 1916
Gift of Arnold and Jean Brenman, 2016
Note: This catalog was brought to the United States by Arnold Brenman's family when they left Germany in 1934. Why did they bother to bring it with them? Why did they keep it all these years?

Galerie Caspari : In Munich in 1939  the Gestapo raided the possessions of art dealer Anna Caspari (1900-1941). In the action called "Ensuring of cultural goods" on January 19, 1939, both her former residence at the Hotel Continental and the gallery bearing her name in  Briennerstraße 52  were searched. In total, 22 paintings, 140 books and an unknown number of graphics were stolen.

A native of Berlin, Georg Caspari (1878-1930) had established the gallery in 1913 and was quickly becoming an established presence in the Munich art market specializing in art of the 19th century and the early modern period.  In 1922 Georg married Anna Naphtali who, two years earlier, had come to Munich to study art history. After the accidental death of her husband in 1930 Anna Caspari ran the business in spite of the deteriorating economic situation, and the subsequent repression by the Nazi regime, until she was forced to close the gallery in 1939 after the confiscation of her property.

From 1938 on Anna Caspari tried to emigrate from Germany to England where her two sons, Paul (born 1922) and Ernst (born 1926), were at boarding school. Her repeated requests were rejected by the German authorities. On November 20, 1941 Caspari was deported during the first mass deportation of Munich Jews. She was murdered November 25th, 1941 in Kaunas, Lithuania.

 

BOOKS AND NEWSPAPERS
Der Jude als Rasseschänder                                                                                   D507.16.3190
(The Jew as Race Ravisher)
Very rare, 1934 anti-Semitic book
Author: Dr. Kurt Plischke
Illustrator: Philip Rupprecht 
Published for Julius Streicher by Ns-Druck und Verlag in Berlin-Schöneberg
Gift of Jean and Arnold Brenman
This extremely hard to find, anti-Semitic book was supposed to show the dangers for "Aryan" German women when having contact with Jewish men!

 

Collection of Newspapers                                                             W4.14.2036
These newspapers chronicle the last days of the fighting during WWII.
Included are:
Evening Bulletin, December 30, 1944
"US Guns Pounding German Corridor"
Philadelphia Inquirer, "Allies Race for Hitler Hideout"

 

Newspaper, March 15, 1937                                                                      D422.12.1925
The Equalizer - "Gentiles Patronize Gentiles"
This free, anti-Semitic newspaper was printed and distributed weekly in Philadelphia. This appears to be the first issue, according to the explanatory articles laying out the purpose of the paper.

 

Newspaper, 1933                                                                            D320.08.1620
London Sunday Express
“Germans Deny Persecution, “Name One Jew Who Has Died” Dr. Goebbels, “The Jews in Germany can carry on their business completely undisturbed”
Gift of Alma Finestone, 2008
 Goebbels rose to power in 1933 along with Hitler and the Nazi Party and was appointed Minister of Propaganda. One of his first acts was the notorious burning of books. As Propaganda Minister he exerted totalitarian control over the media, arts and information in Germany. Goebbels established a propaganda technique known as "The Big Lie" based on the principle that a lie, if audacious enough and if stated with sufficient conviction and repetition, will be accepted as truth by the masses.

                                                            Stealing the Mystic Lamb
                                                            Author: Noah Charney
                                                            Publisher: Public Books/Perseus  Group, 2010
                                                            New York

 

Book                                                                                                  D491.15.3113
A World Without Jews
Author: Karl Marx

 

Eichman, The Man and His Crime                                                 D596.17.3335
Paperback book with an added library hard cover
Author: Comer Clarke
Ballantine Books, NY, 1960 (first edition)
Deaccessioned from the Myers Library at KI

 

Jahrbuch -  Nazi Official Calendar, 1943 (German)                              D597.17#3337
Slipped into this official Nazi calendar book is a safe conduct pass, in English and German, for a German soldier who chooses to surrender. The pass is printed with the signature of Dwight David Eisenhower as Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces.The pass contains the printed signature of General Eisenhower.

Gift of Dave Rosenthal, 2017

 

The Remembrance Book                                                               D606.17.#3364
5th Anniversary Commemorative Album
US Holocaust Memorial Museum

 

Research Collection Assembled by Norman Brody                 JH33.17.#3356
"The Deportation of French Jews"

 

Children of the Ghetto                                                                                 D266.09#1436
Book, 1919  
Author: Israel Zangwill

In its first appearance in 1892, Israel Zangwill's "Children of the Ghetto" created a sensation in both England and America, becoming the first Anglo-Jewish bestseller and establishing Zangwill as the literary voice of Anglo-Jewry. A novel set in late-19th-century London, "Children of the Ghetto" gave an inside look into an immigrant community that was almost as mysterious to the more established middle-class Jews of Britain as to the non-Jewish population, providing an analysis of a generation caught between the ghetto and modern British life. "Children of the Ghetto" remains a landmark work of modern Jewish fiction as well as an essential late Victorian text. As the first Jewish East End novel, the book ignited an important 20th-century genre. In a period that saw the development of the working-class novel and the novel of spiritual malaise, "Children of the Ghetto" encompassed both. The novel conveys details of life in the ghetto and explores a spiritual crisis among young Jews at a time when a questioning of beliefs appeared in Christian novels as well. Zangwill's realistic portrayal intrigued middle-class Jews and elicited nostalgia in those who started out in the East End.

Although a novel about British Jews, "Children of the Ghetto" also found success in the US as the first work of fiction published by the Jewish Publication Society of America. This volume brings back to print the 1895 edition of "Children of the Ghetto", the latest American version known to have been corrected by the author. Meri-Jane Rochelson places the novel in proper context by providing a biographical, historical and critical introduction; a bibliography of primary and secondary sources, and notes on the text, making this accessible to both Jewish and non-Jewish readers.

 

OTHER OBJECTS

"Visitor Identification Card"                                                         JH22.11.1698
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM)
Gift of Rita Rosen Poley

Each visitor to USHMM receives an ID card such as this one. Each card tells the story of an actual person who went through the Holocaust. The visitor tracks the destiny of his/her card bearer through the course of the different exhibits.

This card displays Moshe Finkler, born 10/9/26. Moshe and his family were sent to Auschwitz on April 7, 1944. He was murdered there at age 18.

 

Rumki                                                                                                JH16.05.1147
Lodz Ghetto "currency"
Gift of Joe Levine

            Chaim Mordechai Rumkowski (February 27, 1877 - August 28, 1944) was a Polish Jew and wartime businessman appointed by Nazi Germany as the head of the controversial Council of Elders in the Łódź Ghetto. The special currency used in the ghetto was officially called "marks" but was generally known as "Rumki" in reference to Rumkowski, as this special ghetto currency had been his idea.  Starting on July 8, 1940, this was the only legal currency Jews were permitted to use; it had no value whatsoever outside the ghetto walls.

 

Stamps from the Litzmannstadt Ghetto.                                                L4.03.844
A fifty Kronen note from the Theresienstadt Ghetto
These stamps were issued by the Jewish “government” that the Nazis allowed to function in order to administer daily life of the Ghetto. They were purchased on Ebay from a dealer in Israel

 

Zwei Kronen                                                                                     JH17.05.1148
Currency restricted to the use of Jews in the Theresienstadt Ghetto, 1943

 

SS Dachau Chess Set, 1946                                                            JH26.14.2028
Gift of Dr. Andrew Woldow, 2015
At the end of WWII Dachau Concentration camp became a detainment prison for Nazis awaiting trial. This set was obviously carved by one of these prisoners. It was given to Dr. Woldow's father by a patient who could not pay for his services. The patient was a WWII veteran.

 

Decorative Ark Fragment, circa 1945                                         JH16.04.686 (X44)
Ceramic
Berlin, Germany
This decorative fragment was retrieved from a destroyed Berlin synagogue by Rabbi Meir Lasker, Rabbi of Temple Judea synagogue shortly after WWII ended.

 

 

Krakow Mezuzah (Mostova 8/18-19)                                         Z32.17.3258
Bronze cast
Museum purchase, 2017
Hanging at doorway in Fineshriber Lobby
This mezuzah was cast from the imprint of a past mezuzah hung on the doorpost of an apartment in Krakow, Poland, at Mostova 8/18-19. The Nazis ripped the original mezuzah from the apartment of the Steiner family, Chaskel Jacub, Shendele Maidel, Feige Gitel, Brucha, Szaja and Pinkus. Records show that certain family members were transferred to the Krakow Ghetto. No trace of the family survived the Holocaust.

 

Poland had 3.5 million Jewish inhabitants before World War II. In almost all Jewish homes there was at least one mezuzah ... possibly totaling millions! Almost all Polish Jews perished at the hands of the Nazis, and with them their mezuzot. Today, only empty holes are left. This recaptured mezuzah project is part of Mi Polin's "Tangible Judaism".

 

"Sitting untouched for many years these mezuzahs can now fulfill their holy function...  This bronze mezuzah is a symbol of life - it encapsulates memories of pre-war Jewish Poland thereby reviving its spirit for generations to come."

                                                                        Aleksander Prugar and Helena Czernek
                                                                        Founders of Mi Polin

 

JDC Huppah,                                                                                     M21.780
1946, Land of Israel
TJM purchase, 1999

            This huppah (wedding ceremony canopy) was made under the supervision of the Joint Distribution Committee, founded in 1914 to provide relief to Jews living in Palestine during World War 1.  To this day the JDC still serves as the overseas arm of the American Jewish community.  Not only does it serve Jews worldwide, but also provides relief through its many non-sectarian programs. The JDC was key in organizing and supporting Jews after The Holocaust.  They helped organize the Displaced Persons Camps where many homeless and bereft survivors lived, some for many years after the war. 

According to the appliqué, this huppah was commissioned by the JDC, and was made in the "Land of Israel" (before 1948 - not the State of Israel). It was used in the Foerenwald Displacement Camp.   There were many marriages in the camps as shattered remnants of the Jewish community tried to rebuild their lives and move forward. At first glance it seems rather unremarkable.  But the idea of the broken lives, re-affirmed and renewed under this simple piece of fabric is enormous.  It is truly a symbol of the tenacity of the Jewish people.

 

 

INTERPRETIVE ART WORK
From "Songs of the Ghetto"                                                           JH29.16.3136
Drawing, Approx. 5x5"
Artist: Arthur Syzk
Nazi soldiers with guns march a Jew wearing a Star of David

 

Broken Menorah (circa 1960s)                                          JGR139.82.756
Lithograph (98/125), 24x36"
Artist, Samuel Bak (Born 1933)
Gift of Deena Baird, acquired from Jack Hirsch who was active in the America/Israel Chamber of Commerce

FROM A 2015 EXHIBITION OF HIS WORK AT YAD VASHEM, JERUSALEM: (edited)

Yad Vashem's spacious art exhibitions pavilion is handsomely filled with six decades of paintings and drawings by Samuel (Samek) Bak, an Israeli who left for Paris in 1984 and eventually settled in Boston.

Samek Bak survived a harrowing childhood and, consequently, most of the artist's work concerns the Holocaust. His mother led him away from a transport of hundreds of starving Jews, all of whom were shot two days later in a forest near Ponary. Bak survived a subsequent roundup of children when, after being hidden by his mother, his father, a slave laborer, smuggled him out of the ghetto in a sack of wood shavings and sawdust. His father, like all his co-slave workers, was murdered by the Germans just before the arrival of the Red Army. At war's end, after more miraculous escapes, Samuel and his mother arrived at the Landsberg Displaced Persons Camp, where the young boy mounted an exhibition that was visited by David Ben-Gurion in 1947. Later, his mother found him several teachers and took him to museums in Berlin. Samuel Bak arrived in Israel in the summer of 1948 with his new stepfather carrying a suitcase full of his work. In 1952, prior to his military service, he spent a year at the Bezalel art school. Bak became famous in Israel as a surrealist-cum-symbolist but, perhaps recognizing that he was out of step with the new generation of post-New Horizons Israeli artists, he suddenly decided to focus upon abstract imagery. This period of the early '60s did not last long and Bak soon returned to his core subject matter. His message is conveyed through complicated symbolism, but the artist rarely depicts human beings in telling moving stories of suffering and loss.

In the context of this national memorial to modern Jewish suffering, Bak's works resonate as never before, culminating in his recent series Under the Trees, in which copses of trees severed at their lower trunks are blown helter-skelter across a landscape of pitted or broken gravestones. This symbolism of the brutal severance of the Jews from their long and historic sojourn in Europe is particularly moving. This series shows that Bak is better than ever, at the height of his illustrative yet painterly

powers, his vivid imagination undimmed. It is the story of the Jewish people and also the artist's own story, one of being uprooted since childhood. Samuel Bak has a unique position; he is the sole surrealist history painter. His Dark Rumors and Under the Trees should win an honored place in Yad Vashem's permanent collection.

 

 

POLAND

AUSCHWITZ : ENTRANCE GATE - ARBEIT MACHT FREI - (WORK MAKES ONE FREE)

Color Photograph
Artist: Caryn Koffman

Auschwitz did not start out as a death factory; it evolved over time. The gassing of the Jews at Auschwitz-Birkenau began on a small scale in 1942, but it was not until the Summer of 1943 that the four large gas chambers at Birkenau were in full operation. In one year, in 1942, there were 2.7 million Jews murdered by the Nazis, but only 200,000 out of this number were gassed at Auschwitz-Birkenau. The gassing operation at Birkenau in 1942 was nothing more than two make-shift gas chambers in a couple of old farm houses; the bodies were buried in mass graves because there were as yet no crematory ovens at Birkenau. In 1943, there was a total of 500,000 Jews killed in all the camps, and half of these deaths occurred in Auschwitz-Birkenau. The source for this information is a book entitled "Auschwitz, A New History," written by Laurence Rees, and published in 2005.

 

A Visit from the Inquisitors                                                                       JGR208.07.1310
Engraved by J.Godfrey after a picture by D.W.Winfield,
Published in the Art Journal, 1880.
Steel engraved antique print

           

Gaza Bowen, Santa Cruz, CA                                                           D341.10.1661 The Secret Game, 2000

Book, edition of 55

Antique velvet binding, archival boards and paper, laser printed in New Century School Book font on 100% cotton Crane’s cover stock, with two pages by offset on 100% cotton vellum, with a facsimile of the tiny lock on Anne Frank’s diary.

6 x 5 x 2 (closed), 6” x 5’ (open).

The dimensions of the book  are based on the size of one of the extant diaries of Anne Frank.

"THE SECRET GAME retells my memory from the early 1950's of playing in my best friend's attic our self-invented game of 'Anne Frank'. The book is illustrated with simple line drawings reminiscent of children's books from that era. The text similarly evokes a secure, cheery American middle class. Standing in stark contrast, a moment of fear and suspense is illustrated with photographs from the Holocaust. In addition to personal memory, THE SECRET GAME speaks of the moment of encounter between two cultures: how a young, naive American experienced the Holocaust from Saturday matinee newsreels and the 1952 publication of The Diary of Anne Frank. "

Purchased December 2010, by the Temple Judea Museum, as part of a bequest from the will of Herman Hirshberg in memory of Bernard Hirshberg

 

 

Man of Peace, 1952,                                                                         JGR72.16.3140
Large woodblock print, 8x3.5 feet
Artist, Leonard Baskin, (1922 – 2000).
Gift of Dr. William Stayton, November, 2010

Other prints of this work were prominently exhibited at:
Witnessing Genocide - Representation and Responsibility, the University of Oregon, 2007
The American Scene, The British Museum, 2008

Born in 1922 , Baskin was reared in Brooklyn, New York. The son of a Rabbi, Baskin was educated at a yeshiva (Jewish religious college), which had a profound effect on his aesthetic. Committed to art at an early age, Baskin had his first professional exhibition at the age of seventeen. He studied at Yale University and at the New School for Social Research. Baskin also studied in Paris and Florence.

Leonard Baskin was one of the universal artists of the 20th century. He was a sculptor of renown. He was a writer and illustrator of books ranging from the bible to children's' stories and natural history. He was a talented water-colourist and a superb, prolific print-maker. His prints ranged from woodcuts through lithography and etching; his subjects covered portraits, flower studies, biblical, the Holocaust, classical and mythological scenes.

 

 

Purge; The Nazi Seizure of Power, 1995                                     JH32.17.3336
Altered book, matches, 8 ½ " x 5 ½ " x 5 ¾ "
Artist: Doug Beube
Museum purchase

"The altered book is a synthesis of language and sculpture.  This found book is a critical document of my own, although initially written by another author and commercially bound.  Transforming the book draws attention to both the literal and metaphorical aspects of a horrific event.  Instead of relying solely upon mental or abstract levels of thinking in understanding the content of the book, readers view the cluster of matches, by reading it as 'potentially explosive.'   Its contents of paper, ink and sulfur are revealed through the language of both physical touch and sight."                                                                                                  Doug Beube

 

Waiting for God                                                                   JH28.16.3135
Artist: Kezia Lechner
Works on Paper

            "Waiting for God" is an important and moving series of seventeen original works centered around the Holocaust experience of Kezia's family, also inspired by Elie Weisel's "Night".

Kezia Lechner's father escaped Nazi Germany at age 39. He spoke little of his past. Drawn by a desire to explore her own connection to the Holocaust, the artist conducted her own research. The imagery in these paintings was inspired by photographs taken during the Holocaust, and by Elie Wiesel's memoir Night, an account of his life as an adolescent in Auschwitz and Buchenwald.

Lechner's work is dedicated to Sophie and Gustav Lechner, her grandparents.  Unable to obtain a visa to leave Germany, they vanished in 1941, never to be heard from again. In 2015, the works in this display were presented by the artist to the Temple Judea Museum for its permanent collection.
 

 

Souvenir of Lidice                                                                JGR257.11.1795
Lithograph
Artist: Benton Spruance, 1904 - 1967
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Green

This is the best known of Benton Spruance's wartime lithographs. It was inspired by the total destruction of that Czechoslovakian village by the German's in reprisal for the assassination of the regional military governor by the Czech resistance movement. This image won first prize (planographic division) in a 1943 nationwide competition, sponsored by "Artists for Victory", for graphic works on the theme, "America in the War".

 

Untitled                                                                                 JGR202.07.1220
Silkscreen
Artist: Robert Morris
Gift of Rita Rosen Poley

... an image from a concentration camp, taken from photographs in the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial archive in Jerusalem, has been silk-screened... The image is caressed, smothered or veiled ... there is a sense that the bodies will not allow themselves to be contained ... a chorus of voices ringing with desire, violence and confusion to the point of madness...

The New York Times, 1988, By Michael Brenson

  Art: From Robert Morris, Images of Sex and Death

6,000,001                                                                              JH31.17.3261
Portfolio of six prints
Artist: Moshe Hoffman
Published by Yad VaShem
Gift of Judith Maslin, 2006

 

 

FROM DARKNESS INTO LIGHT: MAUTHAUSEN AND BEYOND,

In 2000 TJM presented the exhibition, From Darkness into Light: Mauthausen and Beyond, the work of two internationally renowned artists who speak of the Holocaust in quite different visual languages.  The two exhibiting visual artists, photographer, Alvin Gilens, and papermaker/sculptor, Robbin Ami Silverberg, have each visited the site of the Mauthausen Labor Camp near Vienna, Austria, and each has come away with a different way to tell the story of this awful place. Neither artist has taken a realistic narrative approach to the subject. The horror is too great. Instead, through photographs, book and paper installations, and even neon, the two have found idiosyncratic ways to respond to the fact of Mauthausen and other Holocaust sites.

 

Scroll “Staircase”                                                     JH13.782
Flax and cotton rag paper
Found material, computer generated photography, burning, and graphite
Artist: Robbin Ami Silverberg
USA, 2000

In the quarry (Wiener Graben) of Mauthausen I encountered its Todes Stiege  (Staircase of Death).  When I have since been in crises those stairs are immediately evoked - a true image of the ultimate life trial...and my conflicts recede in perspective.”

 

“Mauthausen and its Staircase of Death are built of the granite of the earth, the hidden stone under that beautiful land.  It stands strong, impermeable, silent, - a testament to a time and a horror we must learn from and attempt to come to terms with...however impossible that may seem.

 

RUMINATIONS ON MAUTHAUSEN: Robbin Ami Silverberg

Having lived in Vienna and revisited many times, I felt it important to make the pilgrimage to Mauthausen in the Danube Valley. The  area is both grand and idyllic. A dynamic river rushes through bucolic vineyards and orchards; with medieval towns and castle ruins perched above it all.  I’ve made many excursions over the last twenty years, often by bicycle, stopping at the wine gardens, rejoicing in the scenery and peacefulness.

 

The village of Mauthausen is amidst all that bucolic rich greenery, except for the imposing granite structure of the labor camp; a stone edifice and Denkmal (memorial) to the Nazi murder machine. I knew and I didn’t know - couldn’t know about Mauthausen.  ...What hit me that day... so hard that my phenomenological sensibility has been thoroughly shaken? In the quarry (Wiener Graben), I encountered its Todes Stiege  (Staircase of Death).  When I have since been in crises those stairs are immediately evoked - a true image of the ultimate life trial...and my conflicts recede in perspective.

 

LET’S REFLECT A MOMENT ABOUT STAIRS…

.. architectural structures that bring us up to other levels.

Stairs have always suggested movement to me .. movement up to another higher level. They are symbols of transcendence…..heaven, seven steps up a staircase.

(the “mystic ladder” through the gate of eternal wisdom – the Kabalist “Sephira Chochma”), as is the seven steps to the Kabalistic Temple of Solomon…or the thirty steps that the pure and saintly walk… (the thirty rungs of the “Ladder of Heaven”).

Stairs are uplifting and energized…the precursor of the bridge.

 

These Stairs were different. They were made of the granite from the quarry, hard, dark and sharp. Steep beyond any comfort. I struggled to not lose my balance going down.  They loomed above me in an awkward parabolic curve when climbing up them.   I felt all these things without knowing.  I still didn’t know anything ….except that these stairs were frightful, and the quarry was rugged and beautiful. 

 

When I reached the bottom I read the German signs that explained a little about this quarry’s history...about the Todes Stiege,  (Staircase of Death).  Stunned I looked again at the stairs unable to imagine the endless stream of men carrying blocks weighing well over one hundred pounds up those stairs, struggling up that insidious incline.

 

Since my visit to the camp I have read a good deal about the Stairs at Mauthausen.  I’ve visited the Austrian Photo Archive, located in Vienna, which holds all the photographs about Mauthausen (ironically placed in the archive of uprisings and revolutions).  I’ve read books, I’ve surfed the net....but the information feels second hand...those Stairs resonate on their own.  They speak of harshness, an evil, a pain - in and on themselves.

 

Photographs by Alvin Gilens                                                        JH1 - 12.783
MAUTHAUSEN MONTAGE

 “Mauthausen was a work camp whose primary "product" was building stone from its quarry.  Over 300,000 people were imprisoned here, more than 100,000 were killed or died from inhuman treatment.  They included political dissidents, prisoners-of-war, resistance fighters, Jews, Gypsies, women and children.  Special barracks were reserved for the Jews, few of whom survived.”

 

“No single photograph of Mauthausen can convey the impact of this terrible camp in Austria, two hours drive from Vienna. This image comprises ten different negatives, each one an individual photograph in this series. The negatives were blended in the darkroom by traditional photographic printing procedures.” Alvin Gilens

 

The individual images contained within this print are as follows, starting clockwise top center:

             1 - Shower head - gas chamber

             2 - Barracks yard

             3 - Outside of the Krematorium

             4 - Memorial at the site of the Jewish barracks

             5 - The Hungarian Memorial

             6 - Barracks yard

             7 - Prisoners' tether ring

             8 - Wall

             9 - Center, background: Krematorium

            10 - Center, foreground:

                Yellow star, worn by Jewish prisoner

 

 

Two  drawings by Kathe Kollwitz

Kathe Kollwitz (1867 - 1945) is regarded as one of the most important German artists of the twentieth century, and as a remarkable woman who created timeless art works against the backdrop of a life of great sorrow, hardship and heartache. Both her son (WWI) and grandson (WWII) were killed fighting wars and these losses and her understanding of war's inhumanity informed her passionate art work throughout her lifetime.

 

 

RELATED WWII OBJECTS:

The Silver Family collection can be seen on-line at http://templejudeamuseum.pastperfectonline.com/ or through a link on the museum's webpage

 

Fighting from the Sidelines: The Silver Family World War II Home-Front Collection

 “One front and one battle where everyone in the United States – every man, woman and child – is in action. That front is right here at home, in our daily lives.” 

                                                                        President Franklin Delano Roosevelt,

                                                                                    Address to the nation, April 1942

In 2008, local resident Gene Silver walked into the Elkins Park office of Temple Judea Museum director and curator, Rita Rosen Poley, with a strange box in his hands. Gene was searching for a safe home for a family treasure. That treasure, which overflowed the box, was the record of his family’s passage through WWII. Living in Philadelphia, the Silvers, (Parents, Harry and Adeline and children, Lois and Gene), were not on the front lines in Europe but they did experience the conditions of what has become known as The WWII Home-Front. Much of the tangible record of that sobering time does not exist anymore. Known as ephemera, the documents, ration books, posters, letters and newspapers that guided families through those perilous days were largely discarded at the end of the war.

 

Somehow the Silver family knew that ephemera, which could tell the story of the Home-Front effort, needed to be preserved for future generations. After two years of curatorial research and preparation, the museum’s new special collection, The Silver Family WWII Home-Front Ephemera Collection, debuted to the public as Fighting from the Sidelines, the fall/winter, 2010-2011 exhibition of The Temple Judea Museum as an effort of guest curator, Marlene D’Orazio Adler.

 

Curator Adler notes that “In particular, the letters, posters and projects directed towards children, explaining the ways they could help the war effort, I found extremely moving.”

 

HOLOCAUST ERA TORAH SCROLLS IN THE KI ARK

​1."Our two tallest scrolls, much taller than most and yet extremely light in weight because of the thinness of the parchment, are an inheritance from the tiny town of Dringenberg* in Westphalia, Germany. These scrolls are actually refugees from Nazi Germany. They were brought here by members of the Lowenstein/Weitzenkorn family in 1938, the last Jewish family to leave a little town where Jews had dwelled in peace for many hundreds of years. ​Everyone else left. The synagogue was closed and this family, rather than bringing the few possessions they might have carried with them, brought these two magnificent Torah Scrolls and offered them to us, so that we might carry on the two thousand year old tradition of German Jewry which came to a brutal conclusion with the rise of Hitler."

Rabbi Simeon Maslin

*It appears that the synagogue in the town dated back to 1809. It was destroyed in 1938.

 

2. Two scrolls on loan to KI from the Westminster Scrolls Trust

In 1942, under the Nazis, the 100,000-strong Jewish community of Czechoslovakia collected and catalogued Jewish artefacts at the Jewish Museum in Prague. After the war – with fewer than 8,000 Czechoslovakian Jews having survived - the scrolls in the collection were stored in a disused synagogue in the suburbs of Prague.

Following the Communist takeover in 1948, discussions were held with Israel with a view to selling the collection, but the negotiations dragged on. Eventually, Ralph Yablon, a member of Westminster Synagogue in London, was made aware of the existence and plight of the sacred Torah scrolls. Yablon consequently paid the Czech Government a substantial sum to acquire the scrolls, which arrived in the UK fifty years ago, on 8th February 1964. 1,564 scrolls, some dating back to the 17th century, came to London.

Yablon presented the scrolls to Westminster Synagogue which set about the huge task of restoring them. A special ‘scribe’ had to be employed, using very particular ink, parchment and processes to enable the scrolls to be made fit for synagogue use. Even then, some were beyond repair and these approximately 100 scrolls have became the nucleus of the Scrolls Museum, housed at Westminster Synagogue. The vast majority, however, have been sent to communities around the world, so as to give them a second life as the focus of education, interfaith understanding and action for a new generation

 

OTHER RELATED WWII OBJECTS

WWII Military Haggadot

These military Passover Haggadot survived the war and were brought home as mementos by Emanuel Sufrin. One can only imagine the importance of these Sedarim (Passover Seders) experienced so far from home…..important enough that the frail paper programs became treasured heirlooms.

Permanent Collection, The Temple Judea Museum

Gift of Andy Brookman, daughter of Emanuel Sufrin

 

WWII letters written by Nissen (Nate) Koenigswald

"The letters, along with the photograph of your father and the one that so starkly reveals the horrors of Dachau, and the copy of the Army newsletter “The Informer”, comprise an invaluable archive. Your father was a gifted storyteller and his letters are definitely worth preserving, both from an historical standpoint and for their literary interest." - From a letter to Mrs. Kiel

 

Gift of Roberta Kiel

March 2011

 

 

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