I READ IT IN THEIR STORIES. Courage. Hope. Strength. Fortitude. Survival.
I see it in the lines that etch deep into their faces, in their piercing eyes, in their hands. Courage. Hope. Strength. Fortitude. Survival.
They are men and women, now living in Minnesota, who survived the Holocaust.
On a recent Saturday, in Owatonna, a rural Minnesota community far removed from the horrible history of Nazis and concentration camps and atrocities against Jews, I was introduced to brave souls who endured almost unimaginable experiences to emerge with spirits still strong, hope alive, lives to live.
Eva, Ella, Sam, Walter, Paula, Anne, Joe, Trudy, Leo…
Thirty-five impressive portraits by photographer David Sherman and accompanying information written by Lili Chester tell the stories of these Holocaust survivors in the traveling exhibit, “Transfer of Memory.” The show, created in partnership with the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, will remain at the Steele County History Center until August 17.
I’m especially pleased that this exhibit is showing in Owatonna, offering southeastern Minnesota residents like myself the opportunity to view the portraits and read the stories without traveling into the Twin Cities metro.
As I perused the panels of photos, plucking laminated story cards from below the portraits, I found myself immersed in the personal stories of survival and lessons learned. Hands gripped to prevent separation. Warnings given to save lives. Lying about age and religion to save one’s self. Death and marches and sickness. Horrible horrible stories.
But always hope. Hope and faith and more allowed these individuals to survive such awful atrocities.
I wonder if I would have possessed the willpower to continue on, to overcome, as they did.
These Holocaust survivors offer not only their experiences, but their introspection. Therein lies the power of this exhibit:
Don’t hate, it is a terrible thing. Everyone is born innocent. There is no reason to hate.— Eva Gross
The United State presents to me and all our sons and daughter (s) an equal opportunity. Have patience, make an effort and be tolerant.— Sam Rafowitz
The potential of (evil) is there in all of us if we do not remember the past.— Lucy Smith
FYI: If you are unable to view this exhibit in person, click here to see the portraits and read the stories online.
Permission was secured from curators Laura Zelle and Susie Greenberg and from photographer David Sherman to use these photos of Sherman’s work and the exhibit quotes published here. Original exhibit photos and text are copyrighted.