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July/August 2018

July/August 2018

These last few months have been an exciting and heady time in the life of Eyes from the Ashes—and for me, as well!

From the elegance of Madrid premiere of the Auschwitz exhibition a few months ago, we are now preparing for Poland. For Auschwitz specifically.

For over 30 years, I’ve been researching, listening to stories of survivors and trying to learn as much as possible about the people who were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau on August 1, 2, 3, 1943 from the Zaglembia region of south central Poland (Bedzin, Sosnowiec and the like).

Millions of Jews brought millions of photos to slave labor and death camps throughout Nazi occupied Europe. When all their possessions were confiscated, there was a secret Nazi order to destroy all their personal photographs. Only the photos from one transport survived—it was the 1943 deportation of Jews from Zaglembia, saved by members of Auschwitz’ Jewish Underground. It was these photos that I found 43 years later in a locked room in what is now the State Museum of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Now, on the 75th anniversary of this transport, I will return to Poland to speak to several hundred descendants of people whose photographs I found by accident so many years ago, in that unknown room.

Beginning in Krakow, Poland, I will explore this historic city—both its grand market square (Starre Rynek/Old Market Square), together with its uniquely Jewish history—its Jewish section of Kazimierz, its important ghetto sites, the renowned old synagogues and the nearby towns. Most exciting for me will be to share photos and stories of their own families with descendants of people in the photos. Together with exploring Krakow and Warsaw—and important sites, like POLIN Museum of Jewish Polish History (recently named as Europe’s best museum!!)—we will walk the streets of Bedzin and Sosnowiec about whose families, schools, youth groups, businesses, and memories I have learned through stories & photos for more than 30 years.

My presentations will take place both in Krakow (on Friday July 27) and in Auschwitz-Birkenau, at the site of the Sauna, in front of a wall featuring several hundred of these rare personal photos (on Sunday July 29, 2018).

I feel compelled to say it has been a difficult decision to go to Poland—especially because of the severe law, instituted by the current right wing Polish government, that has imposed a 3-year prison sentence and large fine on anyone who implies that Poland had culpability for Jews’ deaths, or anyone who even says three words: “Polish concentration camp.” However, because I am deeply committed to teaching truth, and to speak to the descendants directly on this momentous 75th anniversary, I decided I must go, regardless of my difficulty with this policy, and with this government.

Happily, I just learned this past week that the Polish government has (finally) rescinded this harsh law. However since most of my family was murdered in Poland, with the enthusiastic participation of anti-Semitic Poles helping the Nazis, I would certainly not be going in any case— were it not for my deep feeling of responsibility to meet with the descendants there.

Once I’m back in America, I’ll send photos and stories of how it went.

Wishing you all a good summer of fun, meaning and relaxation,

Ann

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