By Jessica Nunez
When Miriam Brysk visited Eastern Europe in 2002 to see the ghettos and camps where millions of Jews died during the Holocaust, the emotions hit her hard.
Many people who visit those sites probably have a similar experience, but for Brysk, the feelings were even more intense because she had been there herself, as a 7-year-old who survived slaughter in Lida, Belarus, in 1942.
This trip was the first she had made back to the region since she moved to the United States with her family in 1947.
“I had such a strong emotional response,” she said. “And I decided I needed to express it through art.” From those emotions, “Children of the Holocaust” was eventually born, a photography exhibit that is currently being displayed at the Plymouth Community Arts Council.
The exhibit is a collection of photographs of children who perished in the Holocaust, and each photo is framed by a representation of a tallis, or a prayer shawl. The tallis is traditionally given to Jewish children when they turn 13, but the children in Brysk’s exhibit never reached age 13.
“In this exhibit, I gave them each a piece of a prayer shawl,” Brysk said.
She said she decided to do an exhibit memorializing children in 2007 after she finished a memoir about her own childhood called “Amidst the Shadows of Trees: A Holocaust Child’s Survival in the Partisans.”
“I feel very fortunate that I am a survivor,” Brysk said. “And when I wrote my book, I thought about all the other children who didn’t survive, and I wanted to shed light on them.”
Once she had the idea in mind, she began researching to find real children who died in the Holocaust, starting with fellow survivors she knew in Metro Detroit.
“I didn’t want to find just any children,” Brysk said. “I wanted to make sure I could confirm where they were born and where they died to help tell their story.”
Each piece includes the name of the city where the child was born and the site where they died. She also consulted Holocaust books with photos, most of which were taken by Germans.
“It’s a very powerful and moving exhibit,” said Tamara Trudelle, program director at the Arts Council. The Arts Council tries to have a new exhibit each month, and hosted Brysk’s first exhibit, “In a Confined Silence,” in 2006.
A few pieces from the exhibit are being shown alongside “Children of the Holocaust.” Three pieces from “In a Confined Silence” are a part of the permanent art collection of Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, The Holocaust Museum of Israel.