June 2017

EFTA June 2017

There have been some wonderful developments over the past few months, new ways in which the photos of The Last Album: Eyes from the Ashes of Auschwitz-Birkenau, always moving, have inspired found new audiences.

A brief recap here:

Aleeza, a ninth grade student in Atlanta, has so identified strongly with the photos in

The Last Album that she challenged herself to find a way to engage American high school students, both in her school—and beyond—so that they can start to understand the Holocaust in a more personal way. She has created a school project that puts herself in The Last Album pre-war photos brought to Auschwitz-Birkenau. A compelling way to understand the link between past and present, the work of this creative ninth grader will be shared in the coming weeks in Education/Learn section of this web site.

When I received a letter from Emily, she described a photo of an unidentified woman, and asked if I knew more about her. I did not—but because the photos of this lovely young woman were so engaging and her smile so inviting, I understood Emily’s interest. Emily had seen the first edition of The Last Album. By the time she wrote, I had written the revised second volume and I now had a name (only that this woman’s first name which was Minka). I have been deeply struck by the acuity of Emily’s thinking, and by the skill with which she has written (and thought about) an unidentified photo. Here is an excerpt of a paper she wrote early in the process:

We build ourselves a Holocaust narrative in photographs—of the living, of the dead, of the soon-to-be-dead. I’ve stared at their faces so many times, for so long. I’ve counted them, labeled them. And then something strange started to happen: they started to look back. You don’t know me, they said to me. You don’t know me. But I want to. So I imagined them. And in the end, that was the best I know how to do—to hold sacred their lives, to perform their joy, their humanity. The Talmud says, “Whoever saves a life, it is as if he has saved an entire world.” How do we save the dead?

Her questions are intriguing. Recently, I learned that Emily has chosen the dissertation topic for her Ph.D., and that ‘Minka’ will be squarely in the middle! As Emily progresses in her work, and when the time is right, with her permission, I will be honored to share more of her work.

It was a great thrill to receive a letter from the son of Mendel Magier (whose photos will be shared in an upcoming post). He told me about his father and the woman he married, Regina Fajerman. This young couple is featured in both the first and second edition of The Last Album, but like many of photos, if I have identified the photo, I am usually not so lucky to learn all the details that followed in their lives. Thanks to Mendel’s son (and first cousins and siblings), in an upcoming post, I will share their story (and their beautiful) pre- and post-war photos of Mendel, his wife, children, Mendel’s brothers, and families that they each created. It is an uplifting story, illustrated with wonderful photos through multiple generations of this family that began again, after the rupture that is known as the Shoah.

Thanks to Miriam Greenbaum and Robert Jan van Pelt, who are creating two fascinating photo exhibitions in San Sebastian, Spain and also in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, they have chosen to include a group of photos from the ‘Eyes from the Ashes’ collection as well. It is a great honor to have them remember this work, which they saw decades ago, and to choose a variety of the photographs to be included in their two exhibitions.

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