Growing up in a Jewish community in Upstate New York didn't prepare me for being Jewish in Krakow, Poland. My series, What Remains..., allowed me to understand the travesties and tragedies of World War II and profoundly connected me to my heritage as I walked in the shadows of death and sadness.
The project focuses on land infused with a painful and sacred history, in particular, KL Plaszow, the Ghetto and seven Synagogues that still remain in 2017. I was surprised that places so connected to death and torture, are eerily beautiful and serene. Struck by the dichotomy of land that holds so much pain, with land that provides comfort and solace, this work helped me to understand that it is not only people who survive and move forward, but the natural world is also able to transform, shedding previous incarnations and growing into a form of serenity.
The Germans defeated the Polish Army in two weeks and swiftly moved the Jewish people out of their homes and into the Ghetto. Just ten minutes from the center of Krakow were two Jewish cemeteries that the Germans turned into the labor camp KL Plaszow, using Jewish and Polish laborers. Today, only two buildings still stand, the Grey House, which sits at the main intersection off SS-Strasse, and Bergstrasse, whose basement saw horrific torture and the "Red House" home to the Butcher of Plaszow, Amon Goeth. It is important to know that these horrible houses where atrocities occurred are not museums but are homes that are occupied by people that may or may not know the history that lives in their walls. As I walked through the camp, which is now a park surrounded by new housing developments with little signs of the past, I could not help but feel the spirits still present; in the grass, tress, and the soil that has absorbed so much suffering. In this divided and contentious period of history, witnessing the results of xenophobic and racist thinking is a powerful reminder of what is possible.