«It happened, therefore it can happen again: this is the core of what we have to say.» This is what Holocaust survivor and author Primo Levi wrote about the tragedy and the break with civilization that the Holocaust represents. Holocaust survivors know that history can repeat itself, because they have seen with their own eyes what people are capable of doing.
We are not allowed to close our eyes before this matter. As a daughter of Jewish people who were persecuted during the Holocaust, and as Swiss citizen, I consider it our duty and obliga- tion to keep alive the memory of the Holocaust, and to constantly confront ourselves with it. The exhibition The Last Swiss Holocaust Survivors stems from this conviction.
We find ourselves at a defining moment concerning the transmission of Holocaust, since there are only a few witnesses of this terrible genocide remaining among us. The portraits and stories of Holocaust survivors stand at the center of the exhibition The Last Swiss Holocaust Survivors; they give a personal dimension to Holocaust history and preserve it for future generations. Those portrayed here come from various European countries and today live in the German-, the French- or the Italian-speaking parts of Switzerland. They represent all of the people that have survived the Holocaust and found a new homeland in Switzerland.
The poignant portraits made by photographer Beat Mumenthaler show the faces of people, whose human dignity was once denied. These are faces that are marked by life stories. We learn glimpses of these life stories in the moving films directed by Eric Bergkraut. These are stories of survival, as well as stories of life after the Holocaust. Those portrayed here tell us how they were stripped of their rights and humiliated, how they survived the Holocaust and how they have continued to live afterwards. They also tell us how trauma and deep sorrow still inhabit Holocaust survivors at an advanced age.
The exhibition The Last Swiss Holocaust Survivors demonstrates through biographies and portraits what can result from anti-Semitism, which is newly ascendant in several countries. Holocaust memory should thus be a warning that racism and anti-Semitism can have significant consequences. It is the responsibility of our generation to carry on the call for «never again.» The exhibition targets above all the young generation and should raise awareness about the value and importance of tolerance.
I would like to wholeheartedly thank all those who were portrayed: thank you for the strength to tell your life stories, and to share with us your experiences and memories, which can sometimes barely be expressed with words.