Susan Silas: Helmbrechts Walk, 1998-2003:
A visual retracing of a Nazi forced death march
September 8, 2009 – June 30, 2010
Artist’s Reception: Thursday, October 22, 2009
Susan Silas’ work Helmbrechts walk, 1998-2003, is a memorial testament to the forced march of 580 female Jewish prisoners at the end of the Second World War. The march began on April 13th, 1945 in order to evacuate Helmbrechts, a small satellite unit of the Flossenbürg concentration camp before American troops arrived. Silas’ work acts as a visual representation of the 225 miles that the prisoners were forced to walk from the camp in Germany into occupied Czechoslovakia.
With determination and sensitivity, Silas retraced the path of these women for 22 days in Germany and the Czech Republic on the 53rd anniversary of the march. Silas, the daughter of two Holocaust survivors, documented her journey in a collection of 48 archival color prints. Her work deals with the dialectics between visibility and invisibility, uncovering the past by showcasing the journey of those who are unable to tell their story. The images, contextualized by Silas’ commentary of her own experience, are paired with evocative news clips from the same day in 1998 thus drawing a connection between the violent events of the past and those being witnessed in the present. This series of work is compiled in a limited edition unbound artist’s book.
“The elegiac atmosphere evoked by Silas’s photographs hints at the hidden, tragic history of nearly 65 years ago lying beneath the benign wooded landscape,” says Jean Bloch Rosensaft, HUC-JIR Museum Director. “By retracing this Holocaust journey, Silas activates her personal mission of being a witness to the witnesses of the Holocaust, and serves as a vital link in the chain of transmission of Holocaust memory.”
Silas, a renowned artist, photographer and writer, was born in the United States to Jewish-Hungarian Holocaust survivor parents. She is a dual American and Hungarian national who currently lives and works in New York. She received her B.A. in History from Reed College and her M.F.A in Fine Art from the California Institute of the Arts.
Silas continues to be deeply interested in the Holocaust, and has produced, among many other works, photographs of former concentration camps, response pieces to the German artist Anselm Kiefer, and a series entitled Re unifications that juxtaposes photographs from the Olympic Stadium in former West Berlin with images of the Jewish Cemetery in Weißensee in former East Berlin. She has also exhibited her work group exhibitions at: White Columns, New Langton Arts, The Margo Leavin Gallery, The Renaissance Society, The New Museum of Contemporary Art and The Jewish Museum in New York.
Museum Hours: Mondays-Thursdays, 9 a.m.- 5 p.m.; Fridays, 9 a.m. -3 p.m.
Selected Sundays, 10am-2pm; September 13, October 11, November 8, 22, December 13, January 10, 24, February 7, March 7, April 18, May 9
Admission: Free. Photo ID required.
Tours/Information: Katie Moscowitz, 212-824-2293: email@example.com;
Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion is the nation’s oldest institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates men and women for service to American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR’s scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement’s congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR’s campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish history, identity, art, and archaeology, and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding.