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May 2011

Dear Friends,

As I embark on a round of speeches honoring the memory of the Holocaust, and millions of innocent people whose lives were extinguished, I am reminded that, each time we remember, it is as if that extinguished life has presence once again for us.

Three developments to report: 1-New Identification, 2-Students look at old photos in new way, and 3-Chagall and my mom.

1-New Identification
I am pleased to report a new identification has been made! This event becomes rarer and rarer, as we lose more and more of the primary witnesses to the Holocaust. Quite remarkably in, of all places, Eugene, Oregon, the daughter of survivor Karol (Carl) Strochlic has identified her father, of blessed memory! Although his photo has been seen before—because he was a close friend of the Cukierman Family, famed for their popular pastry shop and bakery in Bedzin, Poland, with this family featured in my book, The Last Album, it was not until daughter Debi recognized her father’s photo in web publicity for my speech at Eugene’s Downtown Initiative for the Visual Arts, that we now have a name for this face—and a story to go with it.

Here is Karol, on left, with his friend Binim Cukierman and another friend.

And here, in this orchestra photo, again on left, next to Binim, is another view of Karol (3rd from left, first row orchestra). You can look forward to more info about Karol, once his family and I have a chance to talk further.

Because we have lost so many survivors, it is a special thrill to find one more name, to preserve one more story, and to restore a photo to one more family.

2-Students look at old photos in new way
I have just completed a new seminar with students at the Saligman Middle School in which, after discussing photos Jews brought to Auschwitz-Birkenau, photos that were most meaningful to them, students in grades 6-8, chose photos from their own lives that were most meaningful to them. It was a thought-provoking experience for all, as students decided, not only what was important to them, but why this photo had significance to them—and what kind of memories were triggered by the photo they chose. See the Education section for the questions asked—And at a later date, I will share a selection of their reflections, omitting students’ names, of course.

3-Chagall and my mom
You may be wondering what Chagall has to do with my mom—and so was I, that is, until recently. At the Philadelphia Museum of Art, we are currently mounting a fantastic exhibit, curated by Michael Taylor, who is the Muriel and Philip Berman Curator of Modern Art, featuring not only Chagall, but artists in his Paris circle—many of whom were Jewish ex-patriots trying to escape anti-Semitism in their native homes of Russia and Eastern Europe. The show is quite splendid, and it would be worthwhile to discuss many of the pieces, but here, there is time for only one: Chagall’s rendition of ‘Purim’ and what it has to do with my mom.

In ‘Purim’ painting, against a field of vibrant red-orange, Chagall depicts several villagers carrying baked goods to friends and family. This practice of bringing ‘sh’lach manos’ –delicious baked goods, including Hamantashen ( a three sided pastry filled with fruit—prunes, apricot, cherry and the like)—is so perfectly described in my mom’s unpublished memoir that it has become part of research notes that now accompany Chagall’s exhibit. If someone would like to read the ‘Purim’ excerpt of my mom’s memoir, you need only write to me at: ann@thelastalbum.org and I will be pleased to send it to you.

As we watch the world come into bloom, I wish you all a time of blooming inside yourself that parallels, in some way, Nature’s glorious opening all around us.

Wishing you well,
Ann Weiss

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