rouse company foundation gallery, howard community college, 2022
I carry a story of a time in the concentration camp Terezin, as told to me by my mother. The words are hers, not mine. The experience was hers, not mine. But the details are indelibly etched in my psyche, and now, I tell her story…
My mother’s name was Zdenka. In 1942 she was deported to Terezin, a concentration camp in the former Czechoslovakia. She remained imprisoned there until the war ended, in 1945. What is written on these strips of fragile paper are my mother’s words. They are only fragments and remnants of a much larger story. The text is written in white ink. In order to read it, you must come close. There is too much distance already.
Although there were no gas chambers in Terezin, crematoria were built to manage the overwhelming number of deaths that occurred there.
Approximately 25,000 prisoners were cremated in Terezin. Their ashes were deposited in cardboard urns and kept until 1944 when the Nazis ordered the urns to be emptied into the river Ohře.
The painted boxes are meant to remind us of those cardboard urns into which the ashes of women, children and men were stored in disposable containers until they were thrown in the river.
My mother was part of the human chain forced to empty the urns into the river Ohře…