Everything I felt and saw in my youth, everything that darkened my world, I tried to express in my drawings, as a witness to all those horrible things. It’s only an inadequate effort. I think it’s impossible to express in painting or in any other way the horrors we went through.
The word ‘trace’ has perpetually haunted me throughout most of my adult and scholarly life. As an artist, I recreate rooms and spaces dedicated to the past, collecting wartime artefacts and antiques that I cannot stop myself from obtaining and keeping, even though the majority of the time it is only me that sees or feels them. It is an obsession, the notion that each object leads to another world. Another life, a personal identity, a story.
“But you who knew me will write in your reports
That I spent my younger years for my country,
And as long as the ship battled, I sat at mast,
And when it sank, I went down with it...”
'My Testament' by J. Słowacki
On July 18, 1940 a twenty-six-year-old clerk and law student lost his freedom and identity. He was no longer Bernard Świerczyna but number 1393. The only things which could not be changed or killed by the Nazi regime were his patriotism and love for Poland…
Today’s blog post is written by our student Hannah Wilson (Cohort II). Wilson’s participation in our ‘Visual Culture and the Holocaust’ course inspired the creation of a special piece that was featured at the National Holocaust Memorial event in London. Through her work with the Holocaust Educational Trust, and her experience from our program, Wilson was selected as one of 12 entries to be featured at this event. Here’s what she has to say about the experience:
As I began my Masters degree in Holocaust Studies at the University of Haifa, I was thrilled to be offered a range of interdisciplinary modules, including ‘Visual Culture and the Holocaust’. As an arts graduate, my work and research has primarily focused around artists who produced work during and after the Holocaust, and how these pieces are represented in institutional settings. The course also introduced me to debates and issues surrounding the future of Holocaust education. Coincidentally, when I returned to the UK from Israel to finish writing up my thesis, I began working in a secondary school as a Learning Support Assistant.
Survivor of Auschwitz-Birkenau and the Death March from Gross-Rosen, Kitty speaks exclusively to the Auschwitz Study Group in a wide ranging interview from her time at Auschwitz, to educating a new generation.
Kitty Hart Moxon survived the Holocaust alongside her mother in an incredible journey that saw her escape the Lublin Ghetto, a mock execution, Auschwitz Birkenau, Gross-Rosen and the death march of the harsh winter in 1944.
After moving to Birmingham, England, with her mother just after the war, she became one of the first educators of the Holocaust in the UK and was recently awarded an OBE for her dedication to the subject. Kitty is still very active and can be seen on several documentaries, often with school children and on one occasion, even Neo-Nazis.
There was no formula for surviving Auschwitz. There was no such thing as a formula. Those who survived did so by shutting down all emotions and focusing on surviving another minute, another hour another day.