Literature of the Holocaust
maintained by Al Filreis
I am a Professor of Art at the University of Central Florida and I recently returned form Berlin, where I traveled many of the survivors of the concentration camp Ravensbruck...for the 50th anniversary of their liberation. I had been corresponding with the President of the Dutch Ravensbruck Committee for over two years, and also with the president of The International Ravensbruck Committee, Rose Guerin. Over this period of time and since my travels to Europe I have collected many living histories, and experiances of the survivors. I enclose a breif project discription of the exhibition, scheduled for March of 1997, to coincidde with Women s Awarness month. (I use this project description for grant purposes) but I beleive it will give you somewhat of a clear idea if the exhibition.
THE WOMEN OF RAVENSBRUCK PORTRAITS OF COURAGE
Maria Jans-Ungvari, Belgian, born May 12, 1923. Assisted allied avaitors during WWII.Sent to Nazi prison camp, Ravenbruck; she was pregnant at the time. Her son was born in Ravensbruck; then as an infant, was murdered by Nazis.
Meta Christensen, Norwegian, born February 12, 1922. Made illegal identity-cards for underground workers. Sent to concentration camp, Ravensbruck.
Mila Milotova "Sestakova", Czech, born April 2, 1915. Ran underground press, and assisted fugitives. Sent to Ravensbruck.
These women, and many more, are alive today. They meet, as they have for the last twenty years, in Amsterdam, so they and their work will not be forgotten. They call themselves Women of Ravensbruck Committee, a part of the International Ravensbruck Committee formed in 1945.
The objective is still the same : "Vigilance to wage a struggle against both old and new forms of fascism, and to stand up to all forms of racism, to stand for the maintenance of peace and friendship among all people."
Ravensbruck was a concentration camp built in 1939 for women; most of who were part of the resistance to Nazi occupation. The Ravensbruck women were an active part of the Dutch Resistance, French Resistance and many countries who took a stand against fascism and were among the first to be taken prisoners by the Nazis. It is of special importance because of the collective courage of these individuals that united against fascism and racism. Over 90,000 women and children perished in Ravensbruck, and little, if anything, is written about them in history as we know it today. The Soviets had occupied the camp as a military base since the end of the war, and throughout the "cold war" . When the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 the camp began its restoration as a museum and memorial.
I began a correspondence with Stennie Protomo-Gret, who lives in Amsterdam, and is president of the Ravensbruck Committee in 1992. I explained to her that I wanted to include them in my "women of Courage" series. However, as the correspondence continued, I began to realize the magnitude of history's exclusion. I felt this project was extremely important, and it must include as many women as possible. Consequently the single painting would need to be a total installation.
I was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts grant to travel to Europe this past April to record "living histories" of survivors of the camp. I traveled with the women to the great 50th anniversary of the liberation of the camp. I traveled to first the Netherlands, then to Ravensbruck located north of Berlin with many of the survivors. Through this journey we were able to obtain the most incredible stories and taped and filmed interviews.
We were able to obtain much more documentation then we ever expected. I continue receive experiences of many of the women and their stories through the mail from all over Europe; as well as documents from The European Parliament, The Ravensbruck Museum, and many others through my contacts working on this project.
As an artist, I am committed to including women in our history through my paintings. I view my work as inclusive in its purpose; a way of filling the gaps. I strive to bring a more realistic recognition of the capabilities and potential of human beings regardless of gender --- and an understanding and appreciation of women's positive contributions to society.
This is a project that is far more than a series of paintings. It is recording of important lives --- a documentation of history. This installation will not be an anonymous series of black and white photographs. These are real women, who had real lives, and an incredible amount of heart and courage. .
The women are very supportive of this project and happy to be recognized. Time is passing, however, and as Stennie told me recently, it becomes more and more difficult for these women. Many of them are very old and some very frail.
These women and their work cannot be allowed to go unnoticed any longer. They have been "overlooked" far too long. I have grown extremely loyal to this project, and committed to telling their story in the most powerful and meaningful way possible...
This is an extremely significant and timely project. The nature of this project and its ability to educate come at a time when world strife, civil wars and human rights are at the center of our Worlds attention
Most Sincerely, Julia A Terwilliger
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