Ruth Schreiber opens art exhibition on the Holocaust

A collection of family letters written during the Holocaust by Jewish parents to their children in the UK is the focus of a new art exhibition that Ruth Schreiber will open on November 7 at Schloss Sassanfahrt castle in Hirschaid, Germany.

It is an intimate exhibition that grew out of his communication with Rainer Zeh.

A retired police officer with a passion for local history, Zeh began investigating the Jewish presence in Sassanfahrt and discovered Schreiber’s 2010 book. Letters from my grandparents after communicating with his cousin Mindy Ebrahimoff and Mindy’s mother, Jenny Orenstein (née Merel), online. This communication led Schreiber to visit the city in which his family once had its roots, and this current artistic tribute to his Jewish legacy.

“We didn’t know anything about them,” Schreiber said, referring to his grandparents, Samuel and Minna Merel.

Their faces now appear on the first page of the publication below an inscription in Hebrew invoking divine vengeance on the heads of those who shed their blood.

‘REMEMBER THESE’ by Ruth Schreiber. (credit: courtesy)

The letters, sent to Lotte, Esther and Nathan, their three children who were sent to the UK when it was still feasible, cover what we know of their fate, from Drancy to Auschwitz, where Samuel died, and to Camp de Rivesaltes, where Minna died. Rivesaltes was used by the French government to transport Jews to the East. The last words they spoke to their children were in Yiddish; They were “Stay a yid” [Stay Jewish]. Schreiber’s father refused to set foot in Germany while he lived.

The work of art is not entirely new; It was presented at the Anne Frank Center in New York (2016) and at the Gershman Gallery in Philadelphia (2017). Nor is it the first time that Schreiber has presented his works in Germany. Her video work “Sheitels”, which deals with the orthodox Jewish rule that women cover their hair with a wig, was shown at the Jewish Museum in Berlin in 2017 as part of the group exhibition “Cherchez la femme”. However, it is perhaps his most personal exhibition in that country, focusing on his family-related works as part of a Jewish history of loss.

“This,” he said, “has been a way of getting to know my grandparents a bit.”

Schreiber, who mastered many artistic skills and is an experienced guide at the Israel Museum, has a rich depth to her artistic work, which goes beyond biography.

On Kasher, Kasher, Kasher, which was on display last year at the Jewish Museum in Frankfurt and now in its permanent collection, Schreiber explored the Jewish requirement that women immerse themselves in a mikvah to achieve a state of ritual purity.

These works and others place it at a very interesting juncture. Her art was written in academic publications as representative of the feminist Jewish art of our time. Writing in 2011, David Sperber argued that Schreiber stands at the meeting point between the feminist art of abjection and the art made by Jewish women today, and noted his courage to remove some very important scales from our eyes, as in his work. Mitzvah night, which brings to the fore the generally silent aspect of Friday night: that of the sexual union between a married Jewish couple.

“Some curators want provocative works,” Schreiber told me. “Most of my work is not provocative.”

Writing for this newspaper in 2007, the late Meir Ronen praised her skills as a potter, capable of creating fantastic objects to deceive the human eye.

She herself suggests that her various technical skills allow her to get acquainted with the objects on display in the museum, as she is generally aware of how they were made.

In researching his work, I came across a detailed sketch he made of crucifixions based on the Yehohanan ossuary in the collection of the Israel Museum. Found in 1968, it is one of the few forensic evidence we have that the Romans actually used this method of execution.

“Chagall also painted crucifixions,” he told me.

Two of his works, White crucifixion (1938) and The yellow crucifixion (1943), are now seen as reactions to the persecutions and eventually the destruction of European Jews during the Holocaust.

He also noted that since the original works show physical remains of a Jewish person, what museum visitors see is a replica.

This focus on the body and eyes changes when we consider the Jewish body mutilated during the Holocaust: the hair of Jewish women cut by the Nazis to be used as filler for blankets, the sexual degradation of Jewish women who were often at the mercy. . not only from Germans, but also from non-Jewish males who literally had the power of life and death over them (offering them food or not giving them) in occupied Europe. Jewish men probably weren’t above those things either.

The theme of the eye is even more powerful. The Holocaust was a very complicated and covert act of genocide. The Jews who were shot, gassed and burned were not offered an explanation. History books are important as they provide us with mental maps of what happened. When it comes to images, we tend to limit ourselves to a few iconic ones. The gates of Auschwitz, German soldiers pointing a rifle at a child in the Warsaw ghetto, IAF planes flying over Auschwitz as a promise, never again. The result is that we often think we know, but we don’t look. Our gaze was fixed on us. When the Germans were forced to watch the newsreels of what the British and American soldiers found in the fields, they were so terrified that they often laughed; others vomited.

DURING a 2017 visit to Sassanfahrt, to visit the Stolpersteine ​​ceremony honoring his grandparents, Schreiber met Anette Schaeffer, who showed him not only that city, but also the remains of the mikveh and synagogue in nearby Hirschhaid.

“At one point,” he said, “Annette turned to me and said, ‘My father was in the SS. I don’t approve of it. ‘ It was terrible.”

Schaeffer is co-curator of this exhibition, and Schreiber greatly appreciates her personal courage, as well as her willingness to distance herself from her father’s actions, yet this exchange remains with her to this day.

In this exhibition, Schreiber does not follow the lead of the Allied forces in re-educating the Germans. Many of them, he tells me, seem to have made serious attempts at teshuvah (repentance). Instead, it evokes Hebrew letters woven into the original text of the letters along with their drawings. This almost magical use of Hebrew instills in them the deepest parental need to offer at least some protection to distant children in a distant land. It reminded me of the discoveries made by archaeologist Yoram Haimi in Sobibor, the personal items that Jewish victims had on their bodies. In prints, mixed media, and drawings, Schreiber invokes London as a safe haven for Jews, the faces of the dead, and Auschwitz.

When he started working on these prints in 2012, he invited his father to see them and he wanted copies. This surprised her.

“I said, ‘Dad, you don’t want a picture of Auschwitz in your living room,’” he shared with me. “He said, ‘Yes, I do; this is the story of my life. ‘

This is not the first time that Schreiber has created magic items. He made a bronze female figure under the title “An Oscar for my daughter, the surrogate” and in his installation “Against the Evil Eye” a hand grasps a blue eyeball in a glass box that would be well placed inside a Wunderkammer. Like Hephaestus, who made objects of beauty to chain the Greek gods when they did wrong, the objects that she makes try to ratify injustices in her lucid and serene way.

Seeing that he became interested in the arts during the heyday of British art historian (and Soviet spy) Anthony Blunt, I allowed myself to ask him what he thinks of his idea of ​​cultivating an eye for the arts, an almost intuitive flash of knowledge of a work. of beauty.

“I used to say that there are those who see for themselves,” he reflected, “who see it when you point it out and those who will never see it.”

“I think it’s true,” he smiled.

“Parts of memory: sharing memories. Images of a Jewish Family History ”will be screened from November 7 (Sunday) to January 2 (Sunday) at Schloss Sassanfahrt, Schlossplatz 1, D-96114 Hirschaid, Germany. Opening hours: Sunday, 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Admission: € 2 per ticket. The exhibition will continue to Landratsamt Bamberg, Ludwigstraße 25, D-96052 Bamberg, Germany. There it will be shown from January 7 (Friday) 2022 to February 28 (Monday). Open from Monday to Friday, admission is free. Artist Website:

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *