Faculty-Student Team Tells Women's Holocaust Experiences

With the approach of Yom HaShoah, the Day of Holocaust Remembrance, on May 4, schoolchildren throughout Cincinnati will have a new perspective on the Holocaust years in Europe thanks to the teamwork of a University of Cincinnati fine art faculty member and a graduate student in the College of Education.

Fine art photographer Robin Cobb, UC assistant professor in the

College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning

, and Karen Spector, a UC education graduate student and a former English Composition instructor in UC’s University College, recently teamed up to record the stories of 15 local women who lived through the years of the Holocaust in Europe.  Cobb photographed the women while Spector wrote accounts of their pre-war and World War II experiences.

These texts and images comprise an exhibit titled “Her Story Must be Told: Women’s Voices from The Holocaust.”  It’s a display that will be seen in several locations:

  • It’s currently exhibited on the Fifth Floor of UC’s Langsam Library. 

  • It will exhibit at the Maitri Gallery in Northside from April 30 to the end of May

  • An expanded, large, panel exhibit featuring the photos and stories along with wartime momentos – family photos, a passport stamped with “jude,” forged family documents – belonging to these women will be included in an exhibit from April 15-June 15 at the Mayerson Hall Lobby of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. 

  • Finally, the panel exhibit will be produced in two sets, and the second set will  travel throughout Cincinnati schools starting the week of April 21.  It will travel to schools until the academic year ends and will then begin circulating in schools again next fall.    

Regina Weber

Regina Weber

“It was a great sacrifice for these women to speak out for this exhibit.  It returned them to a time that’s very painful, emotionally, for them to recall,” explained Spector.  “When World War II had a stranglehold on Europe, some of the women that we talked to were 15 to 17 years old – the very age of those we hope to reach with the school exhibit.  I hope this will enable student of today to identify with these women…”

The women featured in the exhibit come from throughout Western and Eastern Europe – Russia, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Greece, Romania, Belgium and France.  And their experiences during the war are as varied as their countries of origin.  Some of the women included in the exhibit are:  

  • Stephanie Marks and her family, residents of Belgium, were visiting Lodz, Poland when the Germans invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939.  Her mother took Stephanie in hand and went to the local Gestapo office to convince the Germans that the family must be permitted to return to Belgium.  With an impeccable command of German and accompanied by her curly, blond-haired daughter, Stephanie’s mother succeeded.  The family returned to Belgium on a German troop transport train, and they subsequently fled through France, Spain and Portugal before eventually making their way to the United States.

Edith Carter

Edith Carter

  • Edith Carter recalled her first experience of anti-Semitism while growing up in Czechoslovakia.  In 1922, she and her family woke up in their small town to find that local youths had fashioned a Swastika out of tin and attached it to their roof.

  • Roma Kaltman was 13 when she was forced to work as a slave laborer in Poland.  But she recalls that she felt lucky because she was with her family.  A lover of books, Kaltman one day stayed home from the factory where she was forced to work.  She stayed home – which also meant going without food all day because those who did not work, did not eat – because she was gripped by a book in which a girl had to leave her family because of illness.  Kaltman felt so sorry for the fictional girl because that would have been the greatest hardship: to be separated from family.

  • Bella Ouziel tells how her family was sent to Auschwitz while other Greek Jewish families went underground in her native Greece.  Auschwitz was especially difficult for Ouziel’s family because no one in the family spoke German or Polish, and there were no translators. 

  • Regina Weber of Hungary escaped from the death march of prisoners forced out of Auschwitz because of the Russian advance.  Weber and her sisters hid beside a doghouse and then in an abandoned Polish home.

  • Marguerite Feibelman participated in the French Resistance during World War II.

Esther Lucky

Esther Lucky

  • Esther Lucky went to 14 different camps in all, serving as both a nurse and a communication lifeline for other prisoners.  Because she moved from camp to camp, Lucky was able to inform family members split among the different camps about whether relatives were still alive or not.

Said Cobb, “The best part for me was meeting the women and hearing their stories and realizing their capacity for survival.  I learned, and what I hope the students who see the exhibit, will learn is that the will to survive, to prevail is the most important quality in overcoming anything that happens to you, the situations you’re placed in.”

As the exhibit travels to the schools, it will be accompanied by a teaching packet with longer accounts of the women’s experiences. 

The “Her Story Must be Told: Women’s Voices from The Holocaust” is one of a series of events, including films, lectures and concerts sponsored, by The Center for Holocaust and Humanity in the weeks preceeding and following the May 4 observance of Yom HaShoah.  To find out more about all of the planned events, go to www.holocaustandhumanity.org or call the center at 513-221-1875, ext. 355.

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