Objects of Memory

by Shimon Lev: Since the beginning of the 1990’s I have been working on a project which deals with my family’s background and memories. The ”Family Photo Diary” contains hundreds of photographs portraying different aspects of the family. Through the years, questions arose regarding Jewish culture continuity, attitudes to the Holocaust and the breakage and calamity following the Holocaust. My father – well-known professor of physics William (Ze’ev) Löw – was born in 1922 in Wien. His grandparents emigrated from Poland after WW1, and are buried in the Wiener Zentralfriedhof, 4.Tor (Vienna Central Cemetery, Jewish section). He grew up in Wien with his parents, Nachum and Erna, and his sister – Liana, born in 1927 – until the family left surprisingly and tragically to Nazi Berlin in 1934. The purpose of moving to Berlin was to take care of the family real estate business. In retrospect, this decision which was against the historical current, ended with a catastrophic result. The family lived in Thomassiusstrasse 11, and Willy and Liane attended the Adas Israel School. In January 1939, 16-year-old Willy was sent by his parents to England with the Kindertransport in order to save his life. Being a German citizen, he was arrested when WW2 began and sent to an Internment Camp in Canada. Since he left Berlin he corresponded with his family, which he never met again. All the correspondence went under strict censorship, and since the beginning of 1942, they could correspond only through Red Cross letters limited to 25 words. The last from Berlin was sent on the end of April 1943. Willy’s sister Liane, to whom my daughter Tamar has an amazing resemblance, was sent to relatives in Belgium in the mid of 1939 in attempt to save her. When the German forces stormed Belgium and France the relatives flew to France with Liane, but when they received visas to the USA, Liane had to return alone by train, to her parents in Nazi Berlin. On 17 May 1943 Erna, Nachum and 14 years old Liane were evacuated from their apartment. They were concentrated in the Lubavitcher Synagogue from which they were forced to walk to the —- train station and transported on the 38 Transport Ost to Auschwitz, were they were murdered. As part of the “Family Photo Diary” I have been working on the project entitled “Objects of Memory” in Wien, Berlin, Ukraine, and Israel during the last few years. I photographed and traced my father’s family locations, roots and memories. The works in this exhibition deal not with the broad general and impossible to grasp aspects of the Holocaust, but rather with facing the complex and complicated private past, along with the present personal outcomes of growing up and living in Israel. The works negotiate with the past and present, while dealing with the questions of both personal and national histories, the possibility of a dialogue with Austrians and Germans, archives, and the method by which history is implemented, excluded, shaped, represented and taught to a society.