A new photography exhibition at IWM London will bring together over 50 contemporary portraits of Holocaust survivors and their families, shining a light on the full lives they have lived and our collective responsibility to ensure their stories live on.
In partnership with the Royal Photographic Society (RPS), Jewish News, the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust and Dangoor Education, Generations: Portraits of Holocaust Survivors showcases new works from 13 contemporary photographers, all members and Fellows of RPS, alongside photography by RPS Patron, Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge. Displayed for the very first time, these powerful photographs capture the special connections between Holocaust survivors and the younger generations of their families.
The systematic persecution of Europe’s Jews by the Nazis between 1933 and 1945 led to the mass extermination of 6 million lives. For those who survived, its memory and impact were life changing. Through a series of individual and family portraits, the moving photographs in this exhibition present a group of survivors who made the UK their home after beginnings marked by unimaginable loss and trauma. While offering a space to remember and share their stories, these portraits are a celebration of the rich lives they have lived and the special legacy which their children and grandchildren will carry into the future.
The majority of the photographs in Generations: Portraits of Holocaust Survivors were captured in Spring 2021, presenting a brand-new body of work from contemporary photographers including Frederic Aranda, Sian Bonnell, Jillian Edelstein, Arthur Edwards, Anna Fox, Joy Gregory, Jane Hilton, Tom Hunter, Karen Knorr, Carolyn Mendelsohn, Simon Roberts, Michelle Sank and Hannah Starkey.
Works on display will include Frederic Aranda’s portrait of Freddie Knoller BEM, photographed on his 100th birthday with his wife Freida, daughters Susie and Marcia and grandson Nadav. Born on 17 April 1921, Freddie was forced to leave his home in Vienna, Austria, and lived as a Jewish refugee in Belgium and France. In 1943, he joined the French Resistance and following his arrest, survived imprisonment in camps at Auschwitz, Dora-Nordhausen and Bergen-Belsen. During a death march from Auschwitz, Freddie took the uniform badge of a dead French political prisoner to conceal his Jewish identity, replacing his own ‘yellow star’ badge with that of a ‘red triangle’ badge. Identifying as a political – rather than Jewish – prisoner helped him survive at Dora-Nordhausen. He moved to London in the 1950s and started a family, through whom his important story will live on. Exhibition visitors will be able to see Freddie’s patch of concentration camp uniform with its red triangle badge on display as part of IWM’s ground-breaking new Second World War and The Holocaust Galleries, which open to the public on 20 October 2021.
Other portraits, taken by Jillian Edelstein, capture survivors alongside childhood mementoes – passports and teddy bears – or sat in the homes where they have created new lives and memories. Joining these will be The Duchess of Cambridge’s intimate portraits of survivors Steven Frank BEM and Yvonne Bernstein, commissioned specially for the exhibition.
Tracy Marshall-Grant, the Royal Photographic Society’s Project Curator of Generations: Portraits of Holocaust Survivors, says: “This exhibition honours those who escaped the Holocaust and celebrates the full lives that they have led in the UK since their arrival. Each portrait shows the special connection between the survivor and subsequent generations of their family and it emphasises their important legacy. The portraits, by leading contemporary British photographers, seek to simultaneously inspire audiences to consider their own responsibility to remember and to share the stories of those who endured persecution. It creates a legacy that will allow those descendants to connect directly back and inspire future generations.”
Imperial War Museum, Lambeth Road, London, SE1 6HZ from 6th August – 7th January 2022. Times: Daily: 10am – 6pm. Admission: Free.