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‘Lives Remembered’ Shows Faces of the Holocaust

March 25, 2010

The haunting images of a Polish Community on the verge of annihilation will be displayed April 1-19 in the Art Gallery of the Houston Harte University Center as part of the Angelo State University’s annual Holocaust Remembrance Week.

“Lives Remembered: Photographs of a Small Town in Poland, 1890-1936” documents the inhabitants of Szczuczyn (STEW-chin), Poland, from the 1890s until the German invasion of the country in 1939. That fall the Jewish population in Szczuczyn was about 3,000, but by the end of World War II only 12 Jews lived in the community. One of the victims was Zalman Kaplan, the photographer who captured on film the people of his doomed community.

Kaplan’s photographs were collected, preserved and compiled for exhibition by his son, Kaye Marvins, and grandson, Mike H. Marvins, who will speak on his grandfather’s work at 6 p.m. Monday, April 12, in the West Texas Collection Gallery on the second floor of the University Center. The talk will follow the 4-6 p.m. formal opening of the exhibit in the UC Gallery. Both the display, which is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, and the talk by Marvins are free to the public.

“Lives Remembered” is a traveling exhibit of the Houston Holocaust Museum. The ASU showing is sponsored by the University Center Program Council and the West Texas Collection as part of ASU’s Holocaust Remembrance Week.

Zalman Kaplan was resident photographer of Szczuczyn from the 1890s until Poland fell to the Nazis. His photos reveal a vibrant population embracing modernity and hopeful about the future rather than the backward-looking society often associated with Eastern Europe in the interwar years. Nothing in the photos suggests the impending doom of both Szczuczyn and Kaplan, who was beheaded in his own home as hundreds of his neighbors were rounded up and sent to their deaths in Nazi concentration camps.

The exhibit depicts the everyday life of people in the small Polish town and allows the viewer to identify and relate to the subjects on an intimate and personal level. This exhibit dispels the notion of differences between the Jewish population and the non-Jewish population.

While the images in “Lives Remembered” celebrate life, viewers are haunted by the knowledge of the terror that befell those people. Questions such as “did that little girl make it?” or “what became of that family?” flood the mind. In the end, “Lives Remembered” is a celebration of life, a memorial to those lost and a reminder of the evils of hate and intolerance.

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