By Caitlin V. Reidy
Boston University News Service
Young, female Holocaust victims are having their lives reimagined through immersive artwork in a project named Lives Eliminated, Dreams Illuminated.
Brandeis University’s Hadassah-Brandeis Institute is showcasing the exhibit that features the work of artist, Lauren Bergman, and musical composer, Ella Milch-Sheriff. Lives Eliminated, Dreams Illuminated (LEDI), is being funded by The David M. Milch Foundation.
The paintings portray victims, such as Edzia Littman, who is reading a book and is surrounded by an owl and an apple tree. This represents her love for learning, Bergman said. Edzia drowned off of the Baltic coast, days before liberation. This occurred after being forced from Stutthof Concentration Camp.
Included in the artwork is an interactive, recorded component that details the lives and deaths of the victims. Following the historical accounts, instrumental music by Milch-Sheriff plays through a set of headphones that visitors receive when entering the exhibit.
LEDI was formed in 2019 after Dr. David Milch, founder of The David Milch Foundation, met Bergman at The Pierre Hotel in New York City, where he said he was attending an event. Bergman’s Holocaust paintings were on display in a separate gallery. Milch and Bergman decided to team up to showcase reimagined paintings of female Holocaust victims.
“I had never seen artwork like this before,” Milch said.
Milch said his parents are Holocaust Survivors. His father passed away in 2019. He said his mother is “92, still alive, and giving testimony.”
Though Milch’s mother survived the Holocaust, there is one painting in the exhibit that portrays her younger self with her family at a picnic. Her portrait is the only depiction of a Holocaust Survivor.
Bergman said her inspiration for this project first came to her when she witnessed the televised “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017. She said that she grew up in the Washington D.C. area, and had never seen KKK and Nazi regalia displayed so openly.
Bergman said she created her paintings based on “historical photographs of untold stories of girls and young women whose lives were brutally cut short.”
“My work has always been about the female perspective,” Bergman said. She also said that one day, she was looking through the internet, and was “captivated by a face.”
“I saw that there was this little girl, and all that was left of her was this photo,” Bergman said. “I knew I wanted to give this little girl something more, something that people could look at and see that she lived.”
Dr. Lisa Fishbayn-Joffe, the Shulamit Reinharz Director of Hadassah-Brandeis Institute, said LEDI supports the institution’s mission by “supporting women, gender, and Jewish studies.”
“I was approached by The Milch Foundation about this project. This centering experience of children and the violence they experienced is cutting edge,” Fishbayn-Joffe said.
She also said that this project aligns with the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute’s mission of “developing fresh ways of thinking about Jews and gender worldwide by producing and promoting scholarly research, artistic projects, and public engagement.”
LEDI will run through Oct. 25, 2023. This ongoing event is free to the public and is located at the Kniznick Gallery, Epstein Building, at 515 South Street in Waltham, MA. Opening hours vary Monday through Sunday. Inquiries can be directed to Amy Powell, the HBI Assistant Director, at email@example.com.