Fabric Art Tells the Story of Survival

HOUSTON, TX (Aug. 6, 2007) Many Holocaust survivors have chosen to write their survival stories in books or as poetry. Others have chosen to only tell family members, to talk with students or to remain silent altogether. But, at age 50, Holocaust survivor Esther Nisenthal Krinitz chose a unique medium – she decided to stitch her story onto fabric.

Trained as a dressmaker but untrained in art, Krinitz created 36 fabric pictures to tell of her experiences in the Holocaust. Meticulously stitched words beneath each picture provide a narrative, and vivid colors and detailed images bring a fascinating sense of realism to the cloth.

Her work is the subject of "Through the Eye of the Needle: Fabric Art of Esther Nisenthal Krinitz," a new exhibit opening Aug. 18, 2007 at Holocaust Museum Houston’s Morgan Family Center, 5401 Caroline St., in Houston’s Museum District. The exhibit runs through Feb. 10, 2008 in the Museum’s Central Gallery. Exhibit hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and noon to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Admission is always free.

"This exhibit is distinctive because a survivor chose to tell her story in a very unique way, by using textile art," said Museum Executive Director Susan Myers.

The fabric pieces are laden with beautiful colors, strung together to become not just cloth, but works of art. A closer look shows both beautiful, detailed landscaping scenes as well as images representing the hatred of the Holocaust.

Krinitz lived under Nazi rule for three years, but in October 1942, she and the rest of the village of Mniszek, Poland were ordered to report to the local train station. Only 15 years old at the time, she made the difficult decision to ignore those orders and took her 13-year-old sister Mania to look for opportunities elsewhere. They never saw their family again.

The two began looking for work among Polish farmers but were turned away by friends and neighbors. They eventually changed their names and pretended to be Catholic farm girls for the remainder of the war. After the war, the two girls found their way to a displaced persons camp. There, she met and married Max Krinitz. The couple and their daughter immigrated to the United States in 1949.

In 1977, she made the decision to tell about her experiences of the Holocaust by creating works of fabric art and began the large-scale embroidered panels. She died after a long illness in March 2001, at age 74.

An important goal of the exhibit is to educate younger generations about the Holocaust and to show how her deep-rooted faith helped her to survive.

Her works will serve as inspiration for one of the Museum’s activities during Houston’s Museum District Day, also on Aug. 18. Adults and children will be invited to create fabric butterfly patterns that eventually will be sewn into quilts for display at the Houston International Quilt Festival and then donated to charity. The Quilt Festival is the largest quilt show, sale and quilt-making academy in the United States, with more than 50,000 attendees. The 2007 edition will run Nov. 1-4 at the George R. Brown Convention Center. For more information on the festival, call 713-781-6864 or visit www.quilts.com.

Participants will not need prior experience in quilting. Quilt blocks can be created freehand or using stencils and templates to be provided. The quilting activity will run from 10 a.m. through 5 p.m.

"Through the Eye of the Needle" is toured courtesy of Art and Remembrance, a not-for-profit corporation founded in 2003 by Bernice Steinhardt and Helene McQuade and is sponsored by Houston Endowment, Inc.; The Samuels Foundation; and Quanex Foundation, with special thanks to Continental Airlines, official airline of Holocaust Museum Houston.

Also opening Aug. 18 is a collection of illustrations from two books by Holocaust survivor and distinguished visual artist Dr. Robert O. Fisch.

Fisch’s works on display are from "Light from the Yellow Star: A Lesson of Love from the Holocaust," in which he describes his experience in a Nazi concentration camp. Also on view will be works from "The Metamorphosis to Freedom," which Fisch wrote as a testimonial to the value he treasures above all others: freedom. The exhibit will be on display in the Museum’s Boniuk Resource Center and Library until February 3, 2008.

Fisch is a native of Budapest, Hungary and a survivor of a Nazi concentration camp. After the war, he returned to Hungary and completed medical school. In 1956, he participated in the revolution against the Russian Communist suppression. Fisch escaped from Hungary and came to America in 1957. He has become internationally known for his clinical research on phenylketonuria (PKU), a genetic disease. He also studied art in Budapest and Minneapolis and has developed a second career as a visual artist.

Holocaust Museum Houston is dedicated to educating people about the Holocaust, remembering the 6 million Jews and other innocent victims and honoring the survivors' legacy. Using the lessons of the Holocaust and other genocides, the Museum teaches the dangers of hatred, prejudice and apathy.

Holocaust Museum Houston is free and open to the public and is located in Houston’s Museum District at 5401 Caroline St., Houston, TX 77004. For more information about the Museum, call 713-942-8000 or visit www.hmh.org.

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