Centre exhibit showcases arts and culture during The Holocaust

December 07, 2004|JENNIFER BRUMMETT

The images hanging at the Norton Center for the Arts are both engaging and haunting. The warm sepia tones and black-and-whites seem to place a barrier between the viewer and the image, an impediment designating a different place in a vastly different time. But the faces from more than 60 years ago, the human emotions, postures and reflections, break down that time-constructed wall and draw in a viewer. The running narrative for "Voices in the Darkness: The Holocaust, Arts and Culture" further illuminates what can be seen in the artifacts and images.

The images and memorabilia are disturbing and fascinating: a ration card issued by the Jewish Authority of Theresienstadt to Dr. Pick; a portrait of Jewish musician Michael Hofmekler playing the violin; a canister of Zyklon B, the chemical used to murder millions of people in the gas chambers of concentration camps; barbed wire and an electric fence insulator from the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, where approximately 1 million Jews were murdered; a concentration camp theater program; a portrait of Max Chankin, a Jewish opera singer from Osijek, Croatia, who was killed during the war; an old violin that was played by a survivor who was a member of the orchestra at a DP (displaced persons) camp; a container of ashes from the crematoria at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.


A time line and narrative follows the exhibit, from 1930 to 1945. A video plays in the corner of the foyer.

Norton Center managing director George Foreman said he has wanted to showcase a Holocaust-oriented exhibit there for about three years.

"The initial idea we pursued was to bring an exhibit from the Holocaust Memorial in Washington, D.C.," he explained. "'Daniel's Story' is a permanent part of that, and is intended for children and younger people."

Daniel is fictitious, Foreman noted, and more of a composite figure. Tourists at Daniel's Story go through different rooms of his house, listening to voices, and see his family change from happy and normal to oppressed in concentration camps. Foreman said there is a touring version of Daniel's Story that he wanted to bring to the Norton Center, but it wouldn't fit in the foyer.

Visiting Holocaust Museum in Florida

In the meantime, director of programs and public relations Debra Hoskins visited the Holocaust Museum in Florida while on a trip, and met its director, Stephen Goldman, as well as Bob Davidson of Exhibits and More, a Syracuse, N.Y.-based company that fabricates and designs exhibitions.

"Those two became members of our team who did this (exhibit)," Foreman noted.

During brainstorming sessions, Foreman kept in mind that groups such as the Warsaw Philharmonic and the Hawthorne String Quartet were scheduled for the 2004-05 Norton Center season.

"The Warsaw Philharmonic was really impacted by the war," Foreman said, adding this musical group recorded the orchestral soundtrack for Oscar-nominated film "The Pianist." "Their hall was destroyed, and members were killed. The Warsaw ghetto was one of the famous incidents of the war.

"The conversation evolved into the Holocaust and arts. Not many exhibitions have been done on that subject. We were trying to look at the overall picture, nailed down this idea, and put it together."

The Hawthorne String Quartet performs the "music of terrorism," music from the period of the Holocaust.

"Their concert was really exceptional," Foreman said. "They played works from five composers who were there, imprisoned at Terezin. They all died - three in the same day at Auschwitz. One was sent to Auschwitz at the last minute, and left his music at Terezin."

Traveling to Auschwitz

Goldman, who now is head of an art museum in Tulsa, Okla., wrote the script for the exhibit, Foreman said, while Davidson's organization produced the display. Foreman and Hoskins also traveled to Auschwitz.

"After The Advocate Brass Band was coming home from The Advocate-Messenger tour, we met in Krakow and had the opportunity to tour Auschwitz," Foreman said. "(There) we had a wonderful guide who took us all over. We saw Schindler's factory, which was very interesting. It was a very telling experience."

They also journeyed to Prague and visited Terezin, or Theresienstadt, a town that Germany turned into a "show camp," Foreman said.

"It originally was built to be a military fortress," he explained. "It was built in the 1700s to be, I think, two, walled fortresses. The smaller one was a prison, and political prisoners were kept there. ... The larger area became a town, and it had about 6,000 residents.

"The Germans turned it into a ghetto. They took all of the people who lived there away and put Jews in there."

It became a "propaganda show camp of artists, musicians and writers," Foreman added. The musicians initially played in secret until the Germans began encouraging their performances.

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