Stories of hope at new Auschwitz art installation

Had he been around to see the installation go up, Viktor Frankl would, no doubt, not have been surprised by the survivors’ sunny philosophy.

By
July 10, 2019 15:30
Stories of hope at new Auschwitz art installation

THE THROUGH the Lens of Faith installation near the entrance to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum invites members of the public to connect with life.. (photo credit: HUFTON + CROW)

 
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 Last week, Eva Kor passed away at the age of 85. The name may not be instantly recognizable to some, but she was a remarkable person who must have been a highly emotionally robust individual. Kor, who was born in Transylvania, Romania, was on an annual trip to the site of the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland, a place she first fatefully encountered in 1944, when she was 10 years old. Crucially, she was a twin, and although her parents and two other siblings perished, she and her twin sister, Miriam, somehow managed to survive being subjected to life-threatening experiments by Dr. Josef Mengele, “The Angel of Death.”


“Forgive your worst enemies,” Kor said in a video interview recorded during her last visit to the Auschwitz Museum, just a few days before she died. “The moment I forgave the Nazis, I felt free from Auschwitz and from all the tragedy that had occurred to me,” she added. Kor did not just sit about dispensing goodwill to those in her vicinity. She was very active in spreading her positive message across the globe. That included founding the Candles Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Terre Haute, Indiana, where she moved from Israel after serving in the IDF for eight years.

A YOUNG haredi couple learns about one of the three non-Jewish survivors honored in the new exhibition. (Credit: HUFTON + CROW)
 
Kor’s incredibly healthy outlook on life, despite her unimaginably horrific childhood experiences and the loss of her family, also resonates in the Through the Lens of Faith artistic installation which opened near the entrance to Auschwitz on July 1.
 
The exhibition will remain in situ until October 31, 2020 – the year that marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the camp. The installation was ceremonially launched on July 1 in the presence of large contingents from Poland, Israel, the States and Europe, including Chief Rabbi of the Ukraine Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich; Rabbi Sholom Friedmann, who serves as CEO of the Amud Aish Memorial Museum in New York; and 91-year-old Avraham Zelcer. The work was designed and compiled by internationally renowned architect Daniel Libeskind, and photographer Caryl Englander, and by curator Dr. Henri Lustiger Thaler of Amud Aish. It comprises portraits of 21 survivors of Auschwitz, including that of Zelcer, taking in 18 Jews, 2 Polish Catholics – 102-year-old Helen Dunicz-Niwinska and 96-year-old Zofia Posmysz, and one German Sinti Free Christian called Peter Höllenreiner.
 
Through the Lens of Faith is well-named. The title references the religious ethos the sisters took with them as they entered the gates of Auschwitz and passed under the infamous wording Arbeit Macht Frei – “Work sets you free.” As they state in the text that goes with Englander’s photographs, in one way or another, they came through the hell of their interment with their faith unshaken. That is, all except Zelcer, who was born in Czechoslovakia and today has 24 descendants. His commentary concludes with the words: “It took me a year after liberation to return to my faith.”

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