Children’s Artwork Tells Holocaust Story in Plainview

Ludmila Lowidtova’s bright eyes seem to smile at you across time. She was only 20 when she died at Birkenau at the hands of the Nazis.

Zdenka Bergmannova’s timeless beauty was captured in black and white. She was in her early 30s when she died at Trawniki, a Nazi forced-labor camp, in 1942.

There’s a pencil sketch of a distinguished gentleman in a dark thin tie and a drawing of a young woman in a pretty blue blouse. The images will haunt you; They are of regular people living ordinary lives: little kids and young adults, an old man holding an infant, caught up in a world gone mad.

One day, the Nazis came and tried to make these people disappear forever.

The Nazis failed: In this they were beaten by mere school children and vanquished by those whose solemn vow is “never forget.”

The faces of these Holocaust victims and their memory lives on, preserved through a series of mixed media collages created by Czech students. That itinerate exhibit is on display in Plainview now through May 1 at the Manetto Hill Jewish Center. The Plainview synagogue is hosting “Neighbors Who Disappeared,” a touring exhibit depicting the lives of Jews who disappeared from Czech towns during World War II.

“Bigotry is the provenance of the ignorant and it is very hard to hate someone when you can relate to them,” said Rabbi David Ross Senter, the synagogue’s spiritual leader.

“You can look at the Holocaust, and the nature of that heinous crime against all of humanity, from a historical perspective without faces,” Senter said. “But in these images we see these are people just like you and me. It illustrates the nature of the crime and what was taken from mankind.”

Rabbi Senter joined the congregation only last August. Since then, the congregation has begun the process of restoring its Holocaust Torah and has sponsored numerous programs on that dark era in Jewish history. The restored Torah will return to Plainview on May 1 and serve as a living memorial to the Jews of Kolin, Czechoslovakia, who died in the Holocaust.

“Neighbors Who Disappeared” is one component of the congregation’s spiritual journey. It was created by Czech children, ages 12 to 21, who were encouraged to examine the lives of local residents deported from the children’s own towns, some of the millions of Jews murdered in the Holocaust of World War II.

The panels re-create the students’ artwork, combining text, paintings, photos and drawings. The include facsimiles of historical documents and have been translated into English.

There are 19 panels, each representing the work of the children’s research on a specific town or city. Among the 20 by 50-inch panels is “A Tribute to the Child Victims of the Holocaust,” which is devoted to the lost lives of Jewish children, especially those who attended the same schools as those of the young artists.

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