Portraits of Holocaust survivors tell of resilience and resourcefulness

31.05.2021

In an exhibition entitled Written in Memory, the Mauthausen Memorial is showing 22 portraits of Holocaust survivors by American photographer Jeffrey A. Wolin. The photographs will be on display in the former infirmary building and the exhibition will run until the end of October. The images are full of life - and although there is a faint echo of suffering it does not force itself into the foreground.

Portraits of Holocaust survivors tell of resilience and resourcefulness
(Photo: Mauthausen Memorial)

Henry Werdinger was transported from the concentration camp in Płaszów in Poland to Mauthausen in August 1944 before being moved to the sub-camp Linz III. Here, he worked as a slave labourer in the Hermann-Göring Werke until the camp was liberated in May 1945. “The first time I photographed Henry Werdinger, the portraits did not do him justice”, says Jeffrey Wolin. The photographer then had the idea of taking a picture of Henry Werdinger standing in water gazing out over the ocean (with Lake Michigan as the sea). “He rolled up his trousers, waded out into the lake and adopted the perfect pose.”

The portrait of Henry Werdinger is part of a cycle with the title Written in Memory, for which Jeffrey Wolin took portrait photographs of dozens of Holocaust survivors. As part of his preparations, he began each session with a videotape interview before making the portraits with the still camera. He then infused aspects of the narrative into the visual structure of the photographs by  imprinting excerpts of the interviews on to the photographs by hand. The photographs thus bring together an individual face with an individual memory. Wolin’s work bears witness to the strength of the individual and to the resourcefulness and resilience of Holocaust survivors, from whom we can all learn an important lesson in humanity.

Jeffrey A. Wolin is Professor Emeritus of Photography at Indiana University. His photographs have been shown in more than 100 exhibitions in the USA and Europe.

“This exhibition is profoundly moving: The portraits show the fate of individuals, which was repeated millions of times in the Holocaust, yet at the same time, the show exudes positive energy and a will to live”, says Barbara Glück, Director of the Mauthausen Memorial.

 

Exhibition:

"Written in Memory"
In the former infirmary of the Mauthausen Memorial
Erinnerungsstraße 1
Until 31 October 2021

Daily from 9 to 17:15