There are many reactions after seeing these photos, as well as questions, thoughts, feelings you might like to share. I invite you to post your comments and questions here.
Questions posed will be answered publicly, unless I am asked to keep them private.
To submit comments, questions, thoughts, ideas, please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dov Yair (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia)
This book is an amazing piece of history!. These photos bring back a lost world that will never return, along with Roman Vishniac’s collection of photographs.
Audrey Friedman Marcus (Denver, Colorado)
The images are beautiful, moving, sad, thought-provoking, significant, and somehow even uplifting. These treasured reminders of family and friends, and of a normal life that was forever destroyed, are a testimony to the human cost of the Nazi atrocities in a way that the more familiar, explicit photos of heaps of dead bodies can never be.
Alfred Nicolisi (Penns Grove, NJ)
While many books about the Holocaust focus on broken remnants of the victims’ physical existence, Weiss’s extraordinary album restores to them their smiles, laughter and songs. With painstaking research and dedication, Weiss learned their names and family histories. The result is nothing less than a miracle: a restoration to the world of the living, in spirit at least, of these beautiful people of Bendin whose dreams were shattered by events that seem incomprehensible to us today. In one especially touching photo, Artur Huppert holds his twenty-month-old son, Peterle, on his shoulder for the boy’s grandparents with the inscription, “Healthy and strong to the age of 120. Radiant as the moon.” The rest would be silence if it were not for Weiss’s project of remembrance.
Luc (Paris, France)
Yesterday I took a walk on the Rue de Rosiers in Paris. I love this street. People there with their warmth and odors of Jewish kitchens….I ought to tell you that I am not Jewish. I stopped at one bookstore and … they had your book The Last Album. I don’t know why, I decided to buy it.
When I came to my home, I dived into the album. In emotion, in tears, in suffering, the love for all these people. Alors/Well, for them, and for me, I would like to thank you.
Because of you, I have had the impression yesterday that these people – their brothers, their sisters, their parents, their friends–have been alive, that they have been happy at the time of my reading.
I am not more than a drop of water in that human ocean but I want to save the memory of those people and not to forget that one day in July, when a book provoked my tears. Your album is going to stay in my library so that everyone can see it because one day, one moment, one friend, one brother, one sister, my son or my daughter, is going to take it and re-live the memory of these people again.
Luc, too often people think of the victims of genocide as simply “bodies” and bodies that have nothing to do with them. Your comments, your reaction, and your taking the time to write to me are all appreciated more than I can express. And the fact that you can feel the humanity of these people through the cherished photos they brought to Auschwitz fills me with enormous gratitude.
As Nobel Laureate Eli Wiesel has often said, “To forget them is to kill them once again.” In your remembering, in your keeping the book on the table so that a friend, your children or someone else will one day see it, and look at these faces, as you have done–Luc, you have made it possible with your caring, and with your heart and eyes wide open, that these ‘Eyes from the Ashes’ shall be remembered. And as long as you care, it is possible for them to ‘live’ a little more. I am so very grateful. Ann
From Devorah Lourie
My mother told me about your book. My father is from Sosnowiec. Most of his family was killed in Auschwitz. Years ago I heard a story about a man who ran out into the street shortly after the war was over, yelling, “I took revenge on Hitler!”
He was asked how.
His answer: “My wife just had a baby.”
You, too, are “taking revenge” by bring to life some of what was destroyed by the Nazis through all your work.
I am the grandson of one of the photographers whose company name was found on the back of 5 photos (Bracia Altman)….Last year I visited Auschwitz and I felt that the exposure of the pictures is a present for the past end next generations.
Loretta Smith (Phenix City, Alabama)
I am a student at CVCC-Phenix City, AL. and I’m studying Humanities-101, “Holocaust studies”. As a 41yr old African American I can relate to the evil acts that have been inflicted on one race of people, but find it difficult to maintain my objectivity about society as a whole. How do you continue to press forward and continue your devotion to educate and enlighten all mankind about our past sins, without total desparity and solace?
Thanks so much for your thought-provoking and challenging question. You asked how to maintain objectivity about society as a whole, and how I continue to press forward to educate mankind about past sins, without total despair? In truth, sometimes it is very discouraging, and I feel despair–not about the people I directly educate, but about the dire situation in so many quadrants of the world–war, violence, poverty, hunger, disease—so many crises domestically and abroad, and in addition, of course, the interior problems with which each of us grapples. I admit that there are moments when I hardly know where to begin or what to do–but I also feel that these are exactly the times when we cannot give up.
When things are at their worst, that’s when we must try to find the best that is within us. And if your ‘best’ connects to my ‘best’ which connects to his ‘best’ and her ‘best’, then I believe that together, we might be better able to make a difference… somewhere … for someone. And sometimes, that’s enough.
Loretta, I’ll admit something to you–and I can sense that you are feeling it too with your study of the Holocaust:
The more I learn about the Holocaust–and what people are capable of doing to other people–the less I understand. But I can’t stop there. Together with the horror, I have also been blessed to see individual greatness as well. The world might have remained silent when we needed action (with very few, but important, exceptions), but I try to remember that, together with the evil, hatred and silence which made the horror possible, there have been many individuals who remained human in the face of such gross inhumanity. I’ll write about some of them–not just for you, but also for me–to help us remember, and be inspired by, the goodness and love in the world. Thank you Loretta, Ann
Your book has done more to drive home the fact that these people had a life before they were destroyed than anything I have used to teach my class. One of my students wants me to ask you what ever happened to Zishe, his wife & his daughter? If you could help us with this we would appreciate it.
From Ann Weiss:
I appreciate your sharing with your students how ordinary lives were lived before the war–and emphasizing the HUMANITY of these people, rather than solely their victimhood. In fact, Professor James Young echoes your sentiment in his foreword this way:
“In ‘The Last Album: Eyes from the Ashes of Auschwitz-Birkenau,’ we not only have a record of how the victims would have remembered their own lives, but we have a visual record of that which constituted the fullness of life itself. The individual lives captured in portraits of children playing, lovers strolling hand-in-hand, the quotidian moments that actually made up life itself before the war are brought painfully into the foreground. In this kind of memory, the humanity of the victims is restored to view and that which the Nazis would have us forget is forcefully thrust back into the open.”
And finally, in answer to your question, yes, Zishe DID survive the war, he got married and went on to have a daughter, Sima, who contacted me a numb of years ago. I will try to locate her to see if she has anything she would like to say to your students. Thanks, Ann