Tuesday, April 15, 2014

I was born and raised in Israel to Holocaust survivors Paula & Mordechai Fried. On the evening before Yom HaShoah, all TV movies, interviews and personal stories are only about the Holocaust. Each year more survivors are willing to tell their stories, though many would be glad to forget. It is unforgettable for those who were there and must not be forgotten by the world. My childhood ‘Fairy Tales’ were my mother’s nostalgic stories about her past before WWII. Growing up I realized that all her family members didn’t survive; though I felt I knew them from her vivid stories that brought them to life. The morning of Holocaust day starts with a sounding siren, everyone in Israel stands for a silent moment to honor the innocent victims. In schools the siren is followed by a ceremony participated in by students of all ages, accompanied with families and guests. At that moment of silence, I always came back to two strong images. One is the separation of my mother from her mother and sisters, the other is my mother holding eight family photos she found in Auschwitz- Birkenau … Every year I asked my mother: “how can you be so optimistic in life after losing your whole family?”

My Mother told me: “The evil has already happened, from now on it can only be good” this was her motto; she was happy to be able to build a new life along with remembering those who didn’t survive.
The CANADA COMMANDO- a work group that had to sort victims’ belongings brought to Auschwitz. The Canada complex was situated very close to 4 gas chambers and crematoria. My Mother told me: “first we took the showers, then my head was shaved bold- it was a very bad feeling along with the fact that we left our clothes and had to put on a striped gown with no underwear… It was very cold in Poland, constantly raining with mud everywhere; after they tattooed no. 5874 on my forearm, I was sent to work in Pavilion No. 8 in Brzezinka (Birkenau) it was a huge space like a big house with piles of clothes on one side, shoes and suitcases on the other. Everywhere, you saw piles brought directly from the crematorium, we sorted the clothing according to size and quality; The Germans then sent the clothes to Germany- they murdered the Jews and wore their clothes”. When my mother went to sleep in the cabins, she put on her layers of clothes to  share with other women, later they started sleeping at the work place. My Mother told me: “we changed clothes often, to leave less to the Germans…one day they told us we are going to wear only dresses with dots

Series 5: on a freestanding shelving unit, The Sorter, a bending figure of a hanger and 2 dresses (black/white stripes+ colored dots). On view next to the treasure box, 2 grid squares: Prisoner’s I.D. and Six Names

My mother had Twin cousins that went through experiments by Mengele.  Whenever she found remains of food in the garment pockets she threw it to her cousins. One day she went with a friend next to the ‘Twin Barracks’ and threw them an apple; The Germans caught them, as a punishment, the two young women had to kneel with stones under their knees for a whole rainy night next to the electric fence. My Mother told me: “During that night, we were cold and wet and our knees were hurting because of the stones, we said to each other it would be so easy to finish our suffering only by touching the wet electric fence… but power of life was stronger, we wanted to believe in a better future”. The hope in a better future and the belief of one day living a normal life again, kept them alive in an unbelievable situation. Apples were a gift of love. My mother threw apples to her cousins; she wanted them to be stronger, but they didn’t survive the experiments… / One of the men liked my mother, he couldn’t speak with her, but he wanted her to know his feelings, so he threw her an apple through the fence. Having an apple in the camp where people were always hungry, and giving it away to somebody else was indeed a big gesture.
Stories EXTERMINATION Camp – Found Photos of Lost Family
6 extermination camps were on Polish soil (in Germany were only concentration-labor camps) Chelmno (Dec.’41-Jan.’45) Belzec (March-Dec. ’42) Sobibor (May-July ‘42 and Oct. ‘42-Oct. ‘43) Treblinka (July ‘42-Aug. ‘43) Majdanek (Sep. ‘41-July ‘44) Auschwitz-Birkenau (March ‘42-Jan. ‘45)

In Auschwitz- Birkenau my mother sorted victims’ clothes by the crematoria. Women sorted women & children’s clothes, men sorted men’s; some men picked up boxes from the women. One day, a man from her small town who sorted men's clothes, recognized my mother in photos (probably taken out of her father garment’s pockets) he gave an envelope with 8 photographs to a deliveryman to give to my mother. My Mother told me: “I cried so much when I saw my family photos, it was a terrible feeling looking at it realizing they might not be alive anymore…” Knowing it might be her only memory from her beloved family… where could she hide it? The Nazi forbade holding photos or other belongings; they only let them keep food. My Mother told me: “I found a piece of cellophane to wrap the photos, spread margarine on the outside and put it between two pieces of bread, I was so happy I found the photos; I kept them during the whole war inside a sandwich…” That day my mother didn’t eat, her bread turned into “a treasure box”; fasting was also a symbol of mourning. Each day my mother took the photos out of the dry bread and put them inside the fresh one, she ate the old bread, bread with a taste of a secret.
Stories Series 3 HAUNTED the SEPARATION
The image I am carrying with me since I heard my mother’s story about the last day with her family is always the same: my mother is standing on one side, looking at the other side, at her mother and younger sisters. I am haunted by the imagined picture of a mother standing as one body with her youngest daughters, 6 and 12 years old, embracing them while her eyes are following her 18 year old daughter.  An unforgettable moment of heart breaking motherhood and separation. It was the moment between life and death… In the relief: THE SEPARATION -a semi abstract woman is holding two young children in her hands, surrounded by human shadows. A small bending figure is separated from them by torn wire mesh that looks like an open wound; Torn wire mesh, a symbol to “Kriah” (tearing in Hebrew; the act of tearing clothes as an expression of grief at funeral homes) also, a reminder of too many families that were torn apart. In Auschwitz my mother was sent to the line of life, her mother stayed with her youngest daughters until their last minute of life…my mother was the only survivor of her family. 
 The Separation (2013) size: 28”x23”x5”

Medium: wire mesh, powder coating, paint, glue