Creative freedom as resistance: remembrance of the Holocaust at Winchester School of Art Library

Our Principal Library Assistant Lena Munday studied an MA in Jewish History and Culture at the Parkes Institute (University of Southampton) and wrote her dissertation on ‘Women’s Diaries of the Warsaw Ghetto’. In the blog post below, Lena marks this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day by exploring the art and artistic representations of the Holocaust in the collections at Winchester School of Art Library. 

 

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Holocaust Memorial Day is marked on January 27th each year; the anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration and death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. On and around this day commemorative events are held to remember those who perished in the Holocaust and to recognize that genocide, antisemitism, racism, xenophobia and discrimination still happen. It is a reminder that there are opportunities for each of us to increase a sense of justice and compassion in our communities and workplaces and strive for a kinder, more democratic and caring society.

This year’s Holocaust Memorial Day focuses on the power of words as its central theme.  We cannot mention written word and its impact without remembering Anne Frank and her famous diary, written in hiding in occupied Amsterdam until she was found and taken to her death. Or Theodor Adorno’s words in 1949 – “after Auschwitz, to write a poem is barbaric”, which gave way to an ongoing debate around the ethics and possibilities of artistic and other representations of the Holocaust.

 

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At Winchester School of Art Library, we hold material that focuses upon the art and artistic representation of the Holocaust, as well as relevant exhibition and museum guides and literature. There are also books in our 20th Century Artists section detailing work produced at the time.  The pamphlet produced by the Anne Frank House in the Netherlands (now a busy museum) and a photographic biography of Anne’s life is a poignant reminder of the child victims of the Holocaust.

 

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Many artists used their work to visually document the horrors of the camps and ghettos; some risked their lives to keep painting and drawing. Creative freedom became a type of resistance for some. Mary S.Constanza’s ‘The Living Witness’ is a record of some of the art from this time.

Art has also been a means for descendants to remember the families they lost during the Holocaust, and to record the stories of those who survived. In the graphic novel ‘Maus’, Art Spiegelman records his father’s experiences of the Holocaust is an entirely unique creative interpretation, with the horrific content set out in comic book format.

 

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There is an Artists’ book in our collection entitled ‘Kaddish’ by Christian Boltanski. Kaddish is the mourner’s prayer in Judaism, recited to reaffirm faith despite loss. The book is divided into four sections- Menschlich, Sachlich, Oertlich, Sterblich (human, objective, locality, mortality).  It contains 1142 black and white photographs of people,objects, places and the dead from before during and after the Second World War. It is interesting to note that the images have been intentionally blurred, to symbolize the out of focus character of memory over time.

 

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If you would like to find out more, please visit our exhibition (curated by Lena) on the art and artistic representations of the Holocaust, which is on display at WSA Library until 31st January 2018. The exhibition is free and open to all. Our opening times and contact details can be found on our LibGuides page here.

The Parkes Library (based in Hartley Library on our Highfield Campus) contains over 29,000 books and journals on Jewish history and culture, published from the 15th century to the present day. More information about this collection can be found here.

 

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