I recently had the privilege of being part of a moving experience, one of the jewels that Maty G. periodically lays before me. I had the privilege of glimpsing the spark of an original, primal creation.
As part of his work with architect Moshe Safdie, Maty G. prepared an artist's portfolio for the project "Yad VaShem, Holocaust History Museum, Jerusalem – Study Drawings".
Safdie is the architect responsible for the planning of the Yad VaShem Holocaust History Museum and its Children's Memorial, the wonderful structure commemorating the memory of the children murdered in the Holocaust, and the spine-tingling Memorial Train Wagon.
I ask myself how one approaches the planning of a place intended as the home to the memory of a tragedy so terrible that the deeper one delves, the further strays from any form of comprehension.
What form does one give to the home of such a memory?
The answer is provided in the guise of study sketches by Moshe Safdie. Safdie drew the sketches in the infant stage of the planning more than 20 years ago. Maty G. did not observe the sketches as an architect, but rather with the eye of an artist. The objective of the sketches was to assist in the planning of the building, to clarify Safdie's own thinking for himself. The "treatment" that Maty G. applied to the sketches in Yair Medina's "Jerusalem Fine Art Prints studio" bestows them with renewed life, re-instills them with the original creative spark with which they were born, and transmits to the observer the power and decisiveness of the drawing hand even before they were clear to the hand's owner himself.
watching those sketches was a very moving experience.
When Safdie stands before Maty's finished work, he is surprised. "Wow", he says.
And then, on the occasion of his birthday, Maty's son, David, flies in to Israel from London accompanied by his older sister, Allona.
A small family celebration. David is an architect and for his birthday he requests a strange gift – to visit Yad VaShem in Jerusalem. I try and dissuade him from the somewhat odd outing, without success. It's just as well. We set our sights for Jerusalem and the Museum of the History of the Holocaust at Yad VaShem.
For the record, I should disclose that I am the second generation of the Holocaust. My parents came from Hungary, from the forced labor camps and from Auschwitz concentration camp. As a young woman, I thought myself free of influence from the "Shoah". As the years passed, and with the recent rise of terrorism, the mass waves of immigration, and hatred for the "other" that have flooded the world, I have discovered that within me lies a certain knowledge that a worldwide holocaust of any kind is almost inevitable. Indeed, acts of atrocity are occurring even today all around the globe, one of the most horrific of which in Syria, our neighbor. This internal holocaust of mine causes me deep sadness, despair.
Therefore, my appreciation grows for those capable of contending with human evil and cruelty in its extreme manifestation, to actualize it in the present, and nonetheless, to act, to bring hope and a glowing light at the end of the darkness.
The Holocaust Museum at Yad VaShem, Jerusalem. I am submerged in an atomic shelter in the belly of the mountain. The concrete walls, the thick concrete walls close in on the triangle prism-shaped building, a building of unfamiliar appearance, from within which my terrified gaze focuses on my surroundings. This dwelling of death bubbles with life. Individual visitors, couples, groups. The atomic shelter is filled with a quiet whisper, a medley of languages and faces from around the world – Hebrew, German, English, French, Japanese, Swedish… My ear detects Hungarian, a whisper in the language of my parents, a group of Arab high school students, a group of soldiers. No-one glances at their smartphone.
I have difficulty examining the exhibits in depth and so wander the length of the prism from one gallery to the next. The floor is broken and split and articles from the Holocaust are displayed among the fragments. I step carefully along the memorial time-line. My eyes are pulled towards the natural light penetrating the room via the ceiling, and at the end of the concrete prism – a bright light. As the Yad VaShem website describes: "The new Holocaust History Museum is a prism-like triangular structure that penetrates the mountain from one side to the other, with both ends dramatically cantilevering into the open air. The triangular form of the structure was chosen to support the pressure of the earth above the prism while bringing in daylight from above through a 200 meter-long glass skylight. The skylight allows gleams of daylight to contrast with darker areas required for multimedia presentations. Within the galleries, light enters through localized skylights varying from diffused to clear glass, depending on the requirements of each exhibit."
The natural light "saves" me during this journey and pulls me to its end and the dramatic exit from the museum that bursts from within the northern slope of the mountain to a view of modern-day Jerusalem.
My friend, architect Uri Shitrit, once told me that the further away from an event you move, the more abstract the manner of its commemoration becomes. The physical exhibits have already been displayed, now it is the idea that needs passing on. The museum, as required and as is to be expected, is overflowing with artifacts and physical testimony, but the museum structure itself is the message. The building works on the visitor's feeling of experience. The atomic shelter, of which humanity may well yet have need, brings the sense of fear and the "dead end" to the "here and now", not allowing one to relate to the Holocaust as a distant historical episode. And yet, it is the light of hope that accompanies the visitor throughout, even if unknowingly.
My feelings are enhanced by a sense of great wonder at Moshe Safdie's ability to create such a small drawing and transform it to a magnificent building possessing its own right of existence within the concrete reality.
And then I think on all of our different ways to come to grips with the Holocaust.
Safdie – in creating the monumental museum.
Maty Grunberg – for his works that are now displayed in the Holocaust Museum in his home town, Skopje in Macedonia.
And also the sculpture elements planned for the Park of Remembrance for the Jewish Community of Macedonia, in the old Jewish Cemetery in Bitola, Macedonia.
And my humble contribution, a documentary film that I made "A Jew from Hungary", on my family as Holocaust survivors.
Each person and their own "Shoah".
Link to the Hebrew version: http://www.nomikan.com/?p=1187
link to the second part of this post – Am i "Second Generation"? http://www.nomikan.com/?p=1321
For further reading
Links to Safdie's website:
Yad Vashem : http://www.yadvashem.org/