The innumerable works of art in Germany commemorating its absent and lost after the holocaust are the themes of a new photographic exhibition at Croydon Clocktower, called Absence and Loss/Forgive and Do Not Forget.
Space C Gallery hosts the work of the award-winning photographer Marion Davies and of ceramic artist Jenny Stolzenberg and creates a context for the Holocaust Memorial Day celebrated yesterday.
Artist Jenny Stolzenberg creates glazed and fired ceramic shoes: replicas of the footwear left behind by holocaust victims when the concentration camps were liberated. The artist said: “Shoes are very evocative: they can tell us so much about the owner. In many accounts of survivors, there is invariably a story about shoes: they cause pain, infection, death and, occasionally, and more happily, they saved lives”.
The ceramic shoes are placed in the centre of the Gallery whose walls are filled by the photographs of Marion Davies. Davies’ black and white pictures compose a photographic journey to contemporary Germany through the art. It pays homage to a vibrant part of her community, lost forever after Hitler’s rise to power.
The first part of the exhibition presents pictures of the Daniel Libeskind’s Jewish Museum in Berlin: “Illustrating how absence and loss can be represented in architectural form”, as Marion Davies says. Fragments of Jewish life and achievements before 1933, is the title of the second part. The Neue Synagogue in Berlin can be seen in this part, now a memorial museum and library, which used to be the largest synagogue in Europe with almost 3000 seats.
It is not only the Jewish community that was excluded from German society in Nazi Germany. Black people, Sinti, Roma and homosexuals, were all victims of National Socialism. Twenty thousand black people were persecuted by Nazis and an estimated 500,000 Sinti and Roma died between 1933 and 1945 in Auschwitz and other concentration camps. Fifty thousand homosexuals were imprisoned. A commemorative plaque, situated near the location of the raided bars and cafés where homosexuals used to frequent is captured by Marion Davies in the fourth part of the exhibition, which commemorates these persecuted communities.
The last section, entitled One Person Can Make a Difference, pays tribute to the bravery of thousands of anonymous people across Europe who helped and saved the persecuted. Here we see a British spy, Mr Frank Foley, who worked in the British embassy in Berlin during the 1930s as a passport control officer. This was a cover for his work as an M16 secret service agent. Through these two roles, Foley saved at least 10,000 lives through issuing visas, forging passports and papers, thus enabling Jews to escape to Britain and Palestine, as the text accompanying the picture of his memorial informs the visitor.
Marion Davies mentions that: “One of the lessons of this exhibition is that integration cannot be taken for granted…I therefore hope that through engaging with this work, visitors will be more willing to confront the dangers of discrimination, prejudice and extremism”. For those who will not be able to attend the exhibition, the work of both artists can be also accessed on the following websites: http://www.mariondavies.co.uk/ and