Holocaust survivors present their art in Yad Vashem exhibit
Exhibition features artworks of almost 300 survivors that Yad Vashem has amassed since 1945.
Yad Vashem on Monday opened Virtues of Memory: Six Decades of Holocaust Survivors' Creativity, an exhibition that showcases the artworks of close to 300 survivors whose creative expressions of their wartime experiences and memories are housed at the institution.
"I didn't have time to remember but with age the memories come back," recalls Raul Teitelbaum, a retired journalist and one of the Holocaust survivors whose artwork is featured in the show.
Teitelbaum's piece, which depicts the moment a young boy received his daily bread in a concentration camp touches on themes of memory and humanity, which are present throughout Virtues of Memory.
The exhibition's opening coincides with Holocaust Remembrance Day. Dozens of survivors were scheduled to attend the opening with their families.
"The most important part of the Holocaust is the conclusion," continues Teitelbaum, who says the expression of memory through art is a way for survivors not only to reach their own conclusions, but to pass them on to new generations.
The chance to see the Holocaust not through photos and videos taken by the Nazis, but instead by "our own documentation" is of the utmost importance for Teitelbaum.
Since the Eichmann trial, survivors' testimonies have played a huge part in the understanding of the Holocaust, but, until now, that has been focused mostly around verbal expression.
As Yehudit Shendar, the senior curator at Yad Vashem and the curator of its new exhibition, explains, "We have been used to listening to survivors, but we have neglected the visual memory."
Other works displayed depict themes of family, faith and pain, while always returning to the memory of the survivor. A particularly powerful image of a New York subway bringing back thoughts of the transport of Jews dominates one wall, and brings these themes together with a simplicity that allows the artist's memory to speak loud and clear.
The Holocaust has been portrayed for generations as an event so unfathomably unlike any other that it is indescribable, which, according to Shendar, is a significant problem.
"It was us, the outsiders who were not there, who made it indescribable. Not only is it describable, it's describable in many vivid colors," says Shendar, who aimed to put this description of the Holocaust on view.
Using the artworks of almost 300 survivors, across various media, including painting, photography, video and sculpture, visitors are taken away from stereotypes and brought into a new sense of reality.
This is the first exhibition of survivor art of this scale, featuring pieces from 1945 up until the present day, which have been amassed by Yad Vashem over the past half-century. It offers a chance, for the first time, to see the Holocaust, visually, through the eyes of survivors.
"Up until now," explains the Shendar, "most of the Holocaust images embedded in our collective memory were either the photos of the perpetrators or what other outsiders thought the Holocaust looked like. Now we have a new lexicon."
"We tend to think of the Holocaust as black-and-white," continues Shendar, "but black-and-white is just the camera of the perpetrators. Colors don?t mean 'happy,' they just mean real."
The exhibition, which will be on view for a year, shows this "real" side of the Holocaust in all its horror. "A lot of people look at these pictures and say 'It's too gruesome to look,'" says Shendar, concluding, "well, it was too gruesome to live."