Artists interpret camp from two points of view
by MIRIAM SOBEL
CJN Ottawa Correspondent
OTTAWA- Visualizing Memory, parallel exhibits of the works of Leo Haas, an artist and survivor of the Theresienstadt concentration camp, and the works of contem-porary artists from the Anton Lehmden Masterclass at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, opened in Ottawa last week, the first stop on a North American tour.
Organized by the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre and the embassies of Israel and Austria, the show interprets the Theresien-stadt experience from two points of view.
The first comes from the 5O year-old works of Haas, a Czech artist deported to the camp in 1942. He was assigned to the Drawing Office of the Technical Depart-ment, where he and other artists produced works for the Nazis to seIl or use for public relations pur-poses, to give outsiders the Impres-sion that Theresienstadt was an attractive model ghetto.
In secret, Haas drew scenes of the real Theresienstadt, which was an holding camp for prisoners destined for Auschwitz. These prints survived the war and remained in his family´s col1ection. Haas died in 1983 after a career as professor at the Art Academy in Berlin. -The other half of the Visualizing Memory show are works of master class students who spent about a -week at Theresienstadt two years ago at the request of an intern from the Gedenkdienst (Serving Memory) Project, a program that allows young Austrians to volunteer at Holocaust memorials in lieu of compulsory military service.
Thirteen young artists from around the world agreed to live on the Site of the Gestapo prison and record their impressions of There-sienstadt in art.
“It’s haunting when you look at the two exhibits together and see the similarity,” says Naomi Kramer, education director of the Montreal Holocaust Memorial-Centre, who helped organize the exhibit. ,,It’s the texture of fear that comes through.”
While it is uncommon to use art for Holocaust education, Kramer says, this exhibit shows what a powerful medium it is.
She said the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre has been in contact with the Haas family for some time. The centre learned of the Theresienstadt exhibit by the master class artists through its contact with the Gedenkdienst Project. Several interns have worked at the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre in lieu of serving in the Austrian military.
In addition to the organizers, the show was supported by the Austrian Cultural Institute, the Community Foundation of Montreal, the Canada Israel Cultural Foundation and the Ottawa Shoah Committee. The show closes in Ottawa on Oct. 30 and then moves to Montreal, Quebec City, Washington D.C., New York and Philadelphia. Kramer said the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre is also working out details for an exhibit in Europe.