New Exhibit Studies the Holocaust through the Eyes of Three Survivors

HOUSTON, TX (July 31, 2012) – In Holocaust Museum Houston’s newest library exhibit, viewers will encounter the Holocaust through the eyes of three artists who survived and now use their artwork to remember victims of that time.

People of the Yellow Star

 “People of the Yellow Star,"
by Paul E. Yarden

In “We Will Never Forget: Selected Works from Max Brenner, Miriam Brysk and Paul E. Yarden,” the artists use varying mediums – painting, prints and sculptures – to highlight their experiences and preserve their memories.

The exhibit opens Friday, Aug. 17, 2012 at the Museum’s Laurie and Milton Boniuk Resource Center and Library in the Morgan Family Center, 5401 Caroline St., in Houston’s Museum District and remains on display through Dec. 31, 2012. Viewing hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Admission is free. The public also is invited to a free preview reception from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 16. Visit http://www.hmh.org/RegisterEvent.aspx to RSVP online.

“Within the Holocaust, there are millions of independent stories. Everyone went through loss, and many who survived want to give back to their community. This exhibit is important because the survivors were influenced by personal experiences, both good and bad, to create their works. Their art is their way of telling their stories,” said Carol Manley, the Museum’s director of collections and exhibitions.

Brysk was born 1935, in Warsaw, Poland. After the Nazis occupied Warsaw, Brysk’s family fled to Lida (now Belarus), her father’s birthplace. When the Germans attacked the Soviet Union in 1941, the Lida Jews were herded into a ghetto.
The Nazis arranged the mass murder of all Jews in the Lida Ghetto on May 8, 1942. Brysk’s family was placed at the front of the line, but the family was spared because of her father’s skill as a surgeon.

Rumors surfaced that all Jewish children in the ghetto would be killed while their parents were away for work. Brysk was sent to the home of a Christian woman whose daughter had been saved by Brysk’s father. After the rumors were proven false, Brysk’s family was contacted and rescued by Jewish partisans.

Upon reflection of her own childhood, Brysk found the inspiration for her new collection, “Children of the Holocaust.” The works featured in the new exhibit are, “Kupiczow-Kowel,” “Lodz-Chelmno,” “Paris-Auschwitz No. 1” and “Amsterdam-Sobibor.”

Each piece features the name of a specific child, the town in which he or she lived and the likely place where the child died. “I felt moved to consider the plights of those Jewish children who, unlike me, did not survive. I felt a compelling drive to remember through art those children who perished, and to portray the nature of their disrupted lives during the Holocaust,” Brysk said.

Her work uses a series of images collected from the Holocaust digitally printed onto a Tallis, a prayer shawl that Jewish children receive at their bar mitzvah, or coming-of-age celebration. Brysk presents each piece in the manner prescribed by Jewish tradition and offers them as a gift of remembrance to the children who were murdered before they could experience this rite of passage.

As a child, Brenner survived the ghetto and camp in Demblin, Poland. He began to sketch pictures of liberation and survival, and later his talent was recognized at a displaced persons camp in Torino, Italy by Italian engineer Enrico Segre.

“Some of my primitive sketches were of soldiers jumping down in parachutes. My dream was that they would come to free us from the Nazis,” Brenner says of his work.

Segre introduced Brenner to the contemporary Italian artist Paola Levi Montalcini, Segre’s cousin. Montalcini tutored Brenner in her private art studio and prepared him for admission into the Academy of Fine Arts.

He was admitted into the Liceo Artistico of The Academy of Fine Arts in Naples, however, his parents emigrated to the United States, where Brenner’s talent was again recognized in New York, and he was sent to study with other gifted children at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Holocaust Museum Houston will feature three of Brenner’s pieces from the series, “Holocaust Paintings.” “Shoes,” recalls bloody memories of his past and an image ingrained in his mind after his liberation from the concentration camp in Czestochowa. “The Survivor,” depicts a Torah that survived the destruction of the Nazis. Finally, “A Mother’s Plight,” is the shaking image of a young Jewish mother in the burning Warsaw ghetto.

Yarden was born in 1927 in a small town south of Slovakia, then Czechoslovakia. The region became part of Hungary, and the persecution of Jews began in 1938. His family’s possessions were confiscated, and they were moved into the ghettos.

Yarden was conscripted from the ghetto into a slave labor brigade by the Hungarian Fascist Army in 1938. He was taken to the Eastern Front in the Carpathian Mountains to build fortifications in inhumane conditions. Finally, he escaped and was liberated by the Soviet army on Dec. 16, 1944.

“In 1945, returning to my hometown I found that nearly all the Jews once living there were murdered, including my whole family. Only one cousin survived, returning from Auschwitz,” says Yarden.

Yarden was attracted to drawing and sculpting. His opportunity to learn came while in Israel. “In Israel, I became a pupil of the famous local sculptor Zeev Ben-Zwi who was involved at that time in creating public sculptural monuments to the Holocaust. Unfortunately, his untimely death in 1951 put an end to these efforts. Ben-Zwi taught me how to cast plaster and carve stone and had a great influence on my artistic development,” says Yarden.

The exhibit will feature three of his pieces, “People of the Yellow Star,” which expresses the helplessness fear and resignation of a Jewish family before deportation; “The Innocents,” a sculpture that depicts women and children standing before executioners; and “Survival,” which shows his son holding his grandson.

This exhibit is presented with special thanks to Avi Tiomkin.

Holocaust Museum Houston is dedicated to educating people about the Holocaust, remembering the 6 million Jews and other innocent victims and honoring the survivors' legacy. Using the lessons of the Holocaust and other genocides, the Museum teaches the dangers of hatred, prejudice and apathy.

Holocaust Museum Houston’s Morgan Family Center is free and open to the public and is located in Houston’s Museum District at 5401 Caroline St., Houston, TX 77004. For more information about the Museum, call 713-942-8000 or visit www.hmh.org.

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