To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp complex, Daniel Libeskind, photographer Caryl Englander, and curator Henri Lustiger Thaler of the Amud Aish Memorial Museum have teamed up to produce a public outdoor exhibition at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Oświęcim, Poland.
Through the Lens of Faith will run from July 1, 2019, through October 31, 2020, and will present museum visitors with reflections—both literal and figurative—on the immensity of the Holocaust.
Twenty-one ten-foot-tall steel slats will be installed along the path to the museum in an arrangement akin to prison bars or prisoners’ stripes, while the side of each monolith facing away from the path will be finished to a mirror sheen. The textural interplay is intended to reference the struggle between freedom and oppression, depicting the yearning for freedom felt by the interned.
On the path-facing side, each of the panels will hold a recessed portrait, shot by Englander, of an Auschwitz survivor in their home. The photographs, taken over three years and of Jewish, Polish, and Sinti survivors, are of volunteers drawn from a network of Holocaust survivors associated with Brooklyn’s Amud Aish Memorial Museum. A darkened pane of glass inscribed with the subject’s first-person account of their internment, and retention of faith, will be lain over each photograph. Below that will be information compiled after the Holocaust on the subject’s family.
“We can’t understand the millions that were murdered in the Holocaust, but we can understand one person’s story,” said Daniel Libeskind in a press release. “This exhibition brings the stories of the survivors into focus, while weaving their intimate accounts into the context of the camp and contemporary life.”
“The project asks an often thought of question,” explained Englander, “but never so purposefully explored in visual and discursive terms: How did a largely religious population maintain their sense of identity and culture in a Deathworld, called Auschwitz? This place was structured to disarm any form of dignity and resistance. My work is a visual testament to the absolute endurance of human courage. With each person I had the privilege to meet, I felt their resilience, their hope and their joy for life.”