Auschwitz exhibit shows how prisoners used faith to survive

The new exhibit is different from others because it doesn't focus on the brutality of the Nazi's. Instead it shows how faith helped victims and survivors persevere.

July 4, 2019 14:28
2 minute read.
Auschwitz exhibit shows how prisoners used faith to survive

Jakub Wlodek. (photo credit: JAKUB WLODEK)

On Monday a new temporary exhibition opened next to the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Poland. The work was designed and compiled by world acclaimed architect Daniel Libeskind, and photographer Caryl Englander, and curated by Henri Lustiger Thaler of the Amud Aish Memorial Museum in New York.

The opening of the Through the Lens of Faith: Auschwitz installation, which will be in place through to October 31 2020, was attended by numerous VIPs, from the States and Europe, including Chief Rabbi of the Ukraine Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich, and Amud Aish CEO Rabbi Sholom Friedmann, and Avraham Zelcer.

The latter 91 year old Czech-born New York-resident is a survivor of Auschwitz. His picture features in portraits, taken by Englander, which line the corridor-like display. All told the exhibition includes photographs of 21 survivors of the concentration camp whose gate, with the infamous Arbeit Macht Frei – Work Sets You Free – lettering arching above it, hovers sinisterly just a couple of minutes’ walk away

The subjects include 18 Jews, 2 Polish Catholics and 1 Sinti, whom Englander met, interviewed and photographed over the last 3 years. They hail from Romania, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Germany, the youngest of whom is 80 and the oldest 102. Besides their horrific Holocaust experiences the survivors have one common bond, they all came out of Auschwitz with their faith in God, and a better world, intact, or regained that ethos soon after liberation – hence the installation title.

Monday’s opening ceremony also included musical interludes performed on instruments from the Violins of Hope project, initiated by Tel Aviv-based violin makers Amnon and Avshalom Weinstein, who have repaired and renovated violins played in concentration camps.

Through the Lens of Faith comprises three-meter high vertical steel panels, with the portraits recessed behind dark glass panels. The panels contain texts dictated or written by the survivors which offer a glimpse of their personal history, and some insight into their Holocaust ordeal and how they came through it, physically and spiritually. The texts close with some family statistics which indicate that the Nazis’ attempts to eradicate the Jews and other “undesirables” backfired, with the survivors producing no less than 849 descendants to date.

It is, of course, a highly personal tribute to the 21 survivors which serves as a microcosmic view of the greatest genocide in the history of the world.  As Libeskind noted: “We can’t understand the millions that were murdered in the Holocaust, but we can understand one person’s story. This exhibition brings the stories of the survivors into focus, while weaving their intimate accounts into the context of the camp and contemporary life.”

One of the supporters of the new exhibition is the Jewish Russian philanthropist, Viktor Vekselberg, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow. The memorial is of personal significance and importance for Vekselberg with sixteen family members who were killed in the Holocaust.

Related Content

August 22, 2019
Iran's regime stokes more antisemitism amid Gulf tensions, ADL report


Cookie Settings