exhibition will present 50 contemporary portraits of Holocaust survivors | Holocaust

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When 97-year-old Kitty Hart-Moxon was recently asked to choose an object that symbolized the horrors she survived at the hands of the Nazis at Auschwitz, Belsen and on the Death Marches, she had no doubts.

A glass container holding the preserved tattooed numbers she had cut out of her own arm and also that of her mother, Rosa Lola, which she keeps in a cupboard at her home in Harpenden, Hertfordshire, is a shocking and tangible reminder.

“My number was 39934 with a little triangle at the bottom, and my mom’s was 39933,” she said.

In post-war Britain, as a nurse and then a graduate in radiography, she was keenly aware of the people looking at the number, clearly visible in her short-sleeved uniform. A doctor remarked that he assumed it was her boyfriend’s number that she couldn’t remember. “And, that just did something to me. I decided then and there, it must come out.

The preserved digital tattoos of Kitty Hart-Moxon and her mother. Photography: Simon Roberts

She was 25 years old. “I thought it was better to take it out and put it in a sample jar. He will be there forever when I am gone, ”she said. And later, after her mother died, she requested that her number be cut as well.

In a video portrait for an upcoming Imperial War Museums (IWM) exhibition, she appears, with her tattoos and alongside her grandson, Michael.

“It was the story of my life, wasn’t it?” And I don’t think anyone else has theirs because most people died with them. But I thought he would be here forever now. It is part of the story. It is important.”

The Generations: Portraits of Holocaust Survivors exhibition, which opens at the IWM in London on August 6, brings together more than 50 contemporary portraits of Holocaust survivors and their families taken in the spring of 2021.

Born in Poland, on the border with Germany and Czechoslovakia, Hart-Moxon and her mother survived the Lublin ghetto, numerous forced labor camps, Auschwitz, the death marches and Bergen-Belsen before to be released. She lost her teenage years, aged 12 to 18, along with her father, brother and many other relatives, to the Holocaust.

Photographer Simon Roberts made six video portraits of Holocaust survivors for the exhibit. Each incorporates the voice of a younger family member describing the legacy their parent’s experience left on their own lives and upbringing. These family members, often grandchildren, are later revealed in each video portrait alongside their loved one, as is the object the survivor considers particularly meaningful.

Roberts was inspired by a Guardian report on research conducted at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital on epigenetic inheritance. Her video portraits will be exhibited alongside photographs, including three of the Duchess of Cambridge, on the theme of generations and the Shoah.

Of Hart-Moxon, he said: “I asked each of them if they would provide anything important to them. So I didn’t know until she introduced it to me. At first I wasn’t really sure what exactly I was watching. When there was this sudden realization that it was actually something taken out of his own body, it was quite shocking. But, of course, it was a shocking act to be numbered that way, and so I think it’s a very powerful emblem of what humans can do to other humans.

“For her, it’s an important reminder and, I guess, she sees it as something that will live beyond her, which is the importance of part of this story. And, obviously, there is an intensity that she wants to convey about what she has experienced.

“For her, it was one of the most powerful ways to convey the graphic nature of what she and her mother went through.”

He said Michael, who talks about his grandmother’s influence in the five-minute life-size video, knew the numbers by heart. “They are anchored. He didn’t even look at them when he talked about them. But he knew the numbers.

  • Generations: Portraits of Holocaust Survivors, created in partnership with the Royal Photographic Society, Jewish News, Holocaust Memorial Day Trust and Dangoor Education, opens at IWM London on August 6.


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