Nov. 9, 2009
by Joy Krauthammer
With my sister, I went to the Laemmle Theatre to see "As Seen Through These Eyes," a documentary about several child and adult survivors of the Holocaust. These Shoah victims survived through their art.
They had a NEED to paint what they saw, which is what we hear them say, now as adults. We see their eyes, their engraved numbers on their arms and hear their emotional words and silence. By putting down on papers their monstrous visions, their expressions of life and death, they could have some control of their lives, when otherwise, they had no other controls in the death camps.
Although lives of the dead could not be salvaged, their memories could be held by others, the artists. Yesh M'Ayin / something from nothing. Whatever paper and pencil stub could be found, artists left their imprints and their vision. We are shown their awesome creations. Men and women were killed by the Nazis when their art was discovered. Others were successful in hiding their art under the bunks.
"As Seen Through These Eyes" is a meaningful, moving, powerful movie. Yes, it is filled with the most obscene historical and painted scenes, and even I, crying, managed to sit through the film which is the least I can do for the survivors and those who perished at the evil hands of the Nazis.
As an artist, I understand the compelling cathartic drive to create and to survive. In addition to my art forms, I remember that when my husband, zl, was sick, paralyzed, and on life-support, I could go into the garden and WEED. I could control what should not be in the life of my garden. A simple act of intense weeding with a ferocity of yanking and pulling and destroying what should not be in my life. whew. I also planted! The artists may have painted in RED and black, or in beauty, to survive their captors.
In the eighties at a Jewish conference, I met a poet, Suzanne Sekeley, z"l. Over the years Suzanne would share her poetry with me in letters and on the phone and tapes. She wrote to survive her childhood memories of the Holocaust. She wrote to spew it out of her life. A Jewish magazine wanted me to write monthly for them. I took the Jewish Calendar Magazine job only on the condition that I could include poetry. I immediately published dear Suzanne's poetry so that I could help her live. Other Los Angeles poets found the space with me in the magazine.
To personally survive the years of illness and death of my husband, I wrote (and drummed), and I sent out my poetry for publication because I was told by other that my words do and could inspire others. This movie has inspired me with how the human soul endures.
Although the film is not currently locally scheduled, it will be available in DVD for home. It is an official film for the UN Kristallnacht commemoration 2009. As I write, it is that horrific anniversary from 1938. My recommendation is that you see the film. There are local producers and distribution people. www.menemshafilms.com.
In the' eighties' I was running an art gallery I had opened for the Jewish community, North Valley Jewish Community Center. An artist came to me, and yes, I showed his work. The artist, a Jewish, former Argentinean prisoner, had found a way to create art on the inside papers of cigarette wrappers. After I did give the survivor a show, his work was shown on Public Television.
Yes, I was moved by this movie. You will recognize some of the survivors in the film, now not all alive, but their art lives on. I am grateful that I had the privilege to hear live (at Hadassah) the harmonica player, Henry Rosmarin, z'l.
My sister, an art historian and English teacher, hopes to show the film to her High School students. Contact the distributor, Neil Friedman, to show it to your group. Tell them Joy sent you. (I paid for my tickets.)
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