Art exhibit on resistance to Nazis has new meaning in Trump era
Bullying and bravery are the themes of Holocaust Heroes: Fierce Females, an exhibit now on display at the Museum of Biblical Art and National Center for Jewish Art on Boedeker Street across from NorthPark Mall. It features a series of leather collages created by lesbian artist Linda Stein that honor women who were heroes of the Holocaust.
“How do you keep your self-respect and survive?” Stein’s work asks. The women she honors in her artistic creations maintained their self-respect, though some didn’t survive.
For example, Hannah Senech joined the British army and parachuted behind enemy lines to rescue Jews who were being transported to Auschwitz. She was captured, tortured and then killed by firing squad.
Another woman featured in the exhibit is Ruth Gruber, a photographer who may be more responsible for bringing images of the Holocaust to the U.S. than any other journalist. She survived the war, but just recently died at the age of 105. The Nazis would have described her work as “fake news.”
Also featured is Neor Inayot Khan, a radio operator with a Muslim background, who was dispatched by Great Britain to Paris to send messages back to England. While the average life expectancy of men working as radio operators behind enemy lines during World War II was less than six weeks, Khan survived four months before she was captured and sent to Dachau, where she was killed.
Stein’s work, though created some time ago, is more relevant than ever in the current political environment, where white supremacists are treated as just a normal part of the political spectrum, rather than being called out as Neo-Nazis and condemned for their hatred.
Stein pointed out what she calls “the four Bs” that allowed the rise of Nazism, adding that she sees many parallels in today’s world.
For instance, she said, the Holocaust began with bullying. Bullies thrive on having a class of people that they can attack. While only a small portion of the population in Nazi Germany were the bullies or the bullied, most people stood on the sidelines and allowed the bullies to escalate their terror into violence. Those who wouldn’t get are the one’s Stein calls the bystanders.
But what ultimately defeated the Nazis were the brave, Stein added — those who stood up to the violence, hatred and oppression. In her exhibit, Stein focuses on 10 women who made a difference during the Holocaust.
During the current administration, Stein said she sees women as once again being heroes. The first resistance to the Trump administration came in the form of the women’s marches held across the country the day after Trump’s inauguration.
But is history really repeating itself with this administration?
The president issued a statement on Holocaust Remembrance Day, but in that statement he made no mention of millions of Jews killed in the Holocaust, even though his daughter and son-in-law are Jewish. And it wasn’t until more than 60 bomb threats were called in to Jewish Community Centers around the country, including the one in Dallas, and tombstones in a Jewish cemetery were overturned that Trump bothered to speak out and condemn the anti-Semitism. Even when he did speak up, he failed to mention the roles white supremicist Neo-Nazis play in his administration.
In a time when immigrants — Muslims in particular — are being bullied in many of the same ways Jews in Nazi Germany were bullied, Stein’s exhibit is a valuable commentary.
Museum of Biblical Arts, 7500 Park Lane. Wednesday-Saturday from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday from 1-5 p.m. $12. On exhibit through March 31