Michael Morris is a curator with New York’s Museum of Jewish Heritage. He was trying to fulfill a common request when he uncovered a number of artworks. They were images of the Holocaust, by people who were there.
Using those works, Morris put together a show of art. Many are by some of the 6 million Jews killed by the Nazis in the 1930s and 40s.
The show is “against and educates about the dangers of anti-Semitism, racism, bigotry of any kind,” said Morris.
He added, “We see hundreds of thousands of people in concentration camps. These are actual people who had multi-faceted lives.”
Among them was 12-year-old Helga Weissova. She brought art supplies with her when she was sent to Terezin concentration camp, north of Prague, in October 1944. Before she was forced to go to Auschwitz, another prisoner gave the drawings to her uncle. He hid them behind a wall.
Auschwitz was the infamous Nazi concentration camp in southern Poland.
Her 1943 work in colored pencil on paper is called “Transport Leaving Terezin.” It shows guards with guns watching a group of prisoners carrying their few belongings.
Weissova is now in her 90s and living in Prague. But many of the artists never made it out of the deadly camps.
Peter Loewenstein of Czechoslovakia was sent in 1941 to Terezin. He gave 70 drawings to his mother before he was forced to go in 1944 to Auschwitz.
His mother and sister would soon be sent to Auschwitz as well. Before they left, they gave the art to a family friend.
His sister was the only family member who survived the camp. She recovered the works after the war, including “Eight Men in Coats with Stars.” It is a 1944 ink on paper picture of Jews forced to wear a Star of David on their clothing for identification.
There is also a powerful watercolor by Marvin Halye, a member of the 104th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army. His division liberated – or, freed – Nordhausen concentration camp in Germany in 1945.
After seeing the few surviving prisoners covering thousands of bodies, he rushed to paint “Civilians Covering Corpses.”
Anti-Jewish hate crimes
The show opens as anti-Semitic hate crimes increase across the United States. Many have happened in New York City, home to the largest Jewish community outside of Israel.
Anti-Jewish hate crimes in New York in 2019 were at a 28-year high, said professor Brian Levin. He is director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University in San Bernardino.
In the most recent attack, a man with a machete wounded five people. They were gathered last month for a Hanukkah celebration at the home of a rabbi, just outside the city.
A few weeks earlier, a shooting at a Jewish market in nearby Jersey City, New Jersey, killed two men.
Hate crimes are increasing at a time when many Americans lack general knowledge of the Holocaust.
The largest lack of understanding is people in their 20s and 30s. More than 60 percent of them do not know what Auschwitz is, said a recent study by a Jewish organization.
I’m Dorothy Gundy.
The Reuters News Agency reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
Words in This Story
curator– n. one who organizes artwork for a show
heritage– n. the traditions, achievements, beliefs, etc., that are part of the history of a group or nation
multi-faceted–adj. having many sides
corpse– n.a dead body
anti-Semitic– adj. acts or words of hatred against Jewish people
machete– n.a long, sharp knife used for cutting thick plants
rabbi– n. a Jewish religious leader