“The seed of a creative idea does not fade in the mud and filth. Even there, it will sprout and spread its flower like a star shining in the dark.”
Peter Ginz (Prague, 1928-Auschwitz-Birkenau, 1944), Terezin, c. 1943
Last week, Yad Vashem opened a special exhibit entitled “New on Display” in its Museum of Holocaust Art. The exhibit presents works of art that have been added to Yad Vashem’s 12,000-piece Art Collection in recent years, and are now revealed for the first time to the general public. The works were created by artists from a wide range of backgrounds and genres, who were active in Europe and North Africa during the Nazi German occupation under varying circumstances: in hiding, in concentration camps, in prisoner-of-war camps, and in the ghettos.
The display includes works by artists who were already accomplished at the outbreak of World War II, alongside those of younger artists who were just beginning their artistic journey in this period. For both the more experienced artists and the novices, continuing to create art was a means of personal expression, as well as testimony during this time of terrible pain and crisis. Groups of works from these collections are integrated into this exhibit, allowing for a fuller understanding their daily struggle and the life story of the artist who created them.
“Each piece in the exhibition tells at least three stories: the story of the artist and his fate in the Holocaust, the content of the work and what is described within it, and the story of the physical embodiment of the work and how it survived and reached us,” remarked Art Department Director Eliad Moreh Rosenberg. “The ‘New on Display’ exhibit connects many artists who on the surface have nothing in common except with their undying drive to create, in spite of the difficult conditions and often at great physical risk. The art they produced gave them the inner strength to live, and expresses faith in the spirit of humanity even when evil and cruelty prevailed all around them.”
Yad Vashem’s Museum of Holocaust Art is dedicated to the world of Jewish creativity during the Holocaust, and presents works by artists who were active in ghettos, camps, hiding places and forests. The works in Yad Vashem’s unrivalled Art Collection will soon be preserved and stored in Yad Vashem’s new Shoah Heritage Collections Center, the heart of the new Shoah Heritage Campus being built on the Mount of Remembrance in Jerusalem. The new Collections Center aims to preserve, catalogue and display these items as everlasting witnesses to the horrors of the Holocaust.
“The Germans Nazis were determined not only to annihilate the Jewish people, but also to obliterate their identity, memory, culture and heritage,” remarked Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev. “For many, all that remains are a treasured work of art, a personal artifact that survived with them, a photograph kept close to their person, a diary, or a note. By preserving these precious items – that are of great importance not just to the Jewish people, but also to humanity as a whole – and revealing them to the public, they will act as the voice of the victims and the survivors, and serve as an everlasting memory.”
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