The Holocaust and other genocides that have taken place are proof that there is always going to be hate, bigotry, and racism in the world that we live in. It is unfortunate that people feel the need to discriminate and attack people because of religious belief, cultural background, or because of race. It is our job as humans with the power to do something, to stand up for those that experience religious persecution, racism, and cultural segregation and show our support to let them know that we are here for them in any way that we can.
The Holocaust is something that I have been learning about since I was in middle school. I remember reading about the event in textbooks, watching movies about it, and looking at pictures of some of the things that occurred during it. Although I was informed about the Holocaust during grade school, I do not think that I fully understood why it took place, and everything that the Jewish community went through during that time. Now that I have taken a genocide studies class, have heard survival stories, and feel truly educated about the topic, I have chosen to create a memorial that I believe represents how people that were imprisoned in the Holocaust felt and were forced to go through. My memorial includes a canvas painting of the Star of David. I used symbolic colors that are known throughout the Jewish religion to signify some of their beliefs. The background of the canvas is gold, the inside of the star is red, and I used blue as the color of the woman’s dress that is in the middle of the star. Also in the middle of the star is the well-known main gate of Auschwitz that states Arbeit Macht Frei, which means work sets you free. Entering the gate is a lady, completely black and behind her is a woman reaching out for the lady in all black in a blue flower dress.
I used the two women shown in my painting to symbolize the loss of identity that people felt while they were in the concentration camps. Upon arrival at the concentration camps the Nazis stripped the Jewish community of their normal cloths, they shaved everyone’s head, and they also tattooed numbers on their arm which would be how they were now identified instead of using their names. They even took away their possessions, even something as small as a picture. In my painting, the woman in all black is entering the camp and while she is walking in she lets go of her true self, which is the women in the blue flower dress. The women in the blue dress is reaching back out to the women in all black wanting her to not let go or forget who she truly is. I choose to put the woman in a blue dress because in the Jewish community, blue symbolizes divinity, meaning that it is holy. The color blue is also known for meaning equilibrium since it is the color of the ocean and of the sky. The Holocaust forced people to forget who they truly were as individuals but today and forever we will not forget what they went through. In today’s world, society has sent out a stigma of what or who everyone should do, look like, and think like. I think that it is our diversity, and our individualism that brings us together as a community and that it is crucial to always remember your true self and who you really want to be as a person.
Although it is not completely known the exact number of those that lost their lives, approximately six million people died during the Holocaust. Six million people in the time span of four year is absolutely horrific and devastating. The red that is painted inside of the Star of David represents all of the bloodshed and those that lost their lives during their suffering in the Holocaust. The Nazis had various methods to kill those that were in concentration camps. Some of which were by using gas chambers, insufficient food that lead to starvation, torturing, harsh living and working conditions, disease from such awful conditions, and mass shootings. To know that innocent people were punished, separated from their families, and killed all because of their religious belief, is unacceptable and as humans that have the power to do something we must stand up for what we believe in and for what is morally right so that a genocide such as the Holocaust never happens again.
It has been said that in the Jewish religion, gold resembles the glory of God. There was a story that was told where if one sacrificed any amount he or she could, that no matter if it was the smallest amount, as long as their heart was always in the right place, that God would honor it. There were many things that were sacrificed by those that were Jewish during the Holocaust including; their families, their rights, and their entire life. It was a hard time for the Jewish community, and although what they went through was something that no one should ever have to experience, they tried there hardest to stay alive and fight for what they believed in. Their strength during those hard times is what is symbolizes the gold background of the painting.
Altogether, my main message for this painting is that the Jewish community went through something that not a lot of people cannot say that they have been through and unfortunately, they did not get the help that they deserved or should have gotten during that time. It stripped them of everything that they had, dehumanized them, and made them feel like they were less than because of their religious views. The use of symbolic colors, the Star of David, and the woman in my memorial was used to get the message out to those that view it that, it is not okay for people to hate and kill others because of who they are. We have the power to stand up for those that are not able to stand up for themselves, so that an event like the Holocaust does not happen ever again.
Lauren McDonald is a student in HGS 300/WMST 495/WMST 595 Holocaust and Genocide Studies.