Stitching History From the Holocaust - Jewish Museum Milwaukee September 14, 2014 - February 28, 2015

Exhibit Blog

November 18, 2014

This is feedback from a person who saw the piece about the exhibit on PBS NewsHour Weekend:

I just watched a PBS video on Facebook about the Stitching History exhibit.

My great grandfather was fortunate to leave Germany in search of visas for the rest of the family. Him and his brother landed in Bolivia, South America and were able to get only 6 visas that they sent back to Berlin right away. Those visas saved the lives of their mother, wife, children (1 each) and youngest nephew (who was 2 at the time).

As they worked tirelessly to sell the few jewels they took and buy/get more visas for the rest if the family (7 brothers total, all married and with children), Germany had taken a turn for the worst.

Long story short, my grandmother (4 at the time) left Berlin with the last group of Jews that could get out before taken by the Nazis. The other visas got there too late. Only 2 survived the camps What is very personal for me about your exhibit, is that my family owned a big tailor shop in Berlin. They specialized in the design and construction of coats and exported them to the US and France. When my great grandfather left Berlin, he took some money, a few jewels (they underestimated how hard it would be to get visas) and above all his sewing kit. When his wife and mother left with the kids in ’39, his brother Leo Rosendorn who was the designer, made some drawings of coats, my grandma has one in a napkin to see if that could help them. He also told them to take a needle so that they could start a life. They did and opened the tailor shop in La Paz – Bolivia. Our survivors told us that the brothers had packed a spool of thread and needles to board the trains thinking that they could use them when they got to the “labor camps”

The shop in La Paz eventually was sold and later closed after my great grandfather died, my grandma is a seamstress and still works today making beautiful clothes.

Thank you for your work, your passion and your example for generations to come. The Nazis will only achieve their goal if we forget our loss, because of people like you, we wont. You being our loved ones back to life


November 6, 2014

By: Molly DubinMilk Can

An engaging ceramic and mixed-media piece by Madison-based artist, Leora Saposnik, has recently been put on display in the Museum’s atrium space.  The sculptural work is a Milk Can inspired by an improbable story.  While interred in the Warsaw Ghetto, a young historian named Emanuel Ringelblum, began an effort to collect evidence of the Nazi destruction of Polish Jewry.  An assortment of materials showing the culture and vibrancy of Jewish life in Poland were hidden in containers, including three metal milk cans, and buried for safe keeping. 

 This thought provoking work is a memorial for the victims who perished in the Holocaust and the survivors whose lives, families and existence were forever altered.  The images adorning it and the messages inside of it tell a story about people and experiences to be remembered.  The piece is also appropriately interactive, giving viewers the opportunity to share thoughts and memories by adding their voices to the story. 

October 6, 2014

By: Ellie Gettinger

On September 27, the life of this small museum was turned upside down.  Samuel Freedman published a loving and fantastic article about this exhibit.  He wrote, “The fashions are both text and textile, a story of life and death told in fabric…”  This was both a beautiful and moving piece that detailed the work of research to create the exhibit.  Since its publication, JMM has received interest and congratulations from around the world–a Swedish academic pointed out a possible connection to a 1997 book, a Maryland-based teacher offered appreciation for the concept, several home-sewers asked if the patterns would be available for sale and organizations approached us to bring this exhibit to their towns.

In thinking about the development of this exhibit, there are many turning points.  This is yet another one that helps get our message out to a much broader audience.


September 22, 2014

By: Kathie Bernstein

Several years ago I read Helen Epstein’s book, Where She Came From. It resonated with me because we were in the early planning stages for planning our current exhibit, Stitching History From the Holocaust, and Epstein’s story paralleled the story of Hedwig Strnad in so many ways. Her family members were assimilated Czech-Jews, as were Hedwig’s. Helen’s great-grandmother founded a couturier in Prague that was taken over by her grandmother and finally by Helen’s mother Franci. Hedwig Strnad had her own dressmaking business in Prague. Like our Hedwig, Franci spent time in Theresienstadt. But, unlike Hedwig, she survived and eventually came to the United States.

This is a fascinating, informative book that never disappointed me. Read it and come to the luncheon featuring author Helen Epstein on Tuesday, October 7th, Noon, at the Rubenstein Pavilion. You can purchase the book from us and bring it to the luncheon to be signed. You can sign up online right here.

September 16, 2014

By: Ellie Gettinger

The only American killed on direct orders of Hitler.

The only American killed on direct orders of Hitler.

Today is Mildred Fish Harnack Day in Wisconsin.  You might say, “Who?” But the Wisconsin Legislature recognized her as a hero and designated her birthday as an official commemoration.  She was born in Milwaukee, went to UW-Madison where she met her husband Arvid.  Arvid was a German student and in 1929, she immigrated to Germany to be with him.  Both Mildred and Arvid were part of the German resistance and both were killed for their actions.  Mildred was initially only sentenced to hard labor, but Hitler had her sentence reviewed and she was executed in February 1943.

In addition to her resistance work, Mildred was a noted translator, teacher and writer.  She is yet another example of the talent lost in the Holocaust and World War II.  As the exhibit goes on, we will describe more.  For more information about Mildred Fish Harnack, explore our exhibit guide or check out this documentary from Wisconsin Public Television.



September 11, 2014

By Jane Avner

Michael Berenbaum addresses the crowd at the Opening Reception

Michael Berenbaum addresses the crowd at the Opening Reception

We love this exhibit – the staff worked their hearts out. Molly Dubin with her artistic skills to mount the panels and dresses; Ellie Gettinger reaching out to educators, creating the educators’ guide, putting together the pieces so that the Digital Humanities group from the UWM will be a contributing partner; and behind the scenes, our fearless leader Kathie Bernstein writing grants, keeping us in line, assembling a strong lay committee headed by past president Marianne Lubar who coordinated a smashing opening night. Barb Budish made sure the catalog was ready on time and looked great! Jay Hyland, editor extraordinaire, assisted in research all along the way. Thank you to Hannah Lartz for making sure all the communications were sent out on time and the events so far ran so smoothly.

Michael Berenbaum spoke to the heart of the exhibit. He really “got” it. The immigration story – how we are here because of Benedict’s choice to immigrate rather than stay. How Brigitte and Lieselotte are alive because of Kindertransport. And how Hedy’s dresses are an example of Jewish choices of “portable” professions. I’ll paraphrase something he said (I think I have this right): The Holocaust is not the story of six million who died, but a different story six million times.