This photograph, taken of my mother in May, 1949, will be part of the exhibit to be dedicated on May 31, 2011 at the Springfield, Massachusetts Jewish Community Center. The large wall memorial features photos of lost family members and Holocaust survivors who settled in Western Massachusetts after World War II.
My mother, Sidonia, posed for this photograph for her visa documents before embarking on the USAT General R.L. Howze, a U.S. Army transport ship destined for New York Harbor. In Sidonia’s Thread, I describe her this way: “Wearing no makeup at all, her face is somber and tightlipped. Her hazel eyes…appear dark as a moonless night, looking eerily hypnotized. Her eyebrows are unpampered, overshadowed by her deep-set heavy eyelids. Her strong nose and narrow lips bring out the leanness of her face. She wears a homemade stone brown fitted coat with stiff shoulder pads and a pointed collar, a patterned scarf tucked inside. Her seriousness may reflect the gravity of her passage to a new unknown world, but then again, she may just be following her own first rule of picture posing: never deliberately smile.” Does this picture captivate you as much as it always has me?
When we first came to America, my mother, like many other refugees, was encouraged not to talk about her painful experiences during the Holocaust. But these days, people want to know more about a time when a portion of the world seemed to have lost their moral compass. I’ll be talking about why studying the Holocaust is still a very contemporary endeavor when I speak at the dedication of the Dan Leblanc book collection at Rockville, CT Public Library on June 5.