Northern lights – the faces of a new Holocaust exhibition in Manchester

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Northern lights – the faces of a new Holocaust exhibition in Manchester

Powerful photographs tell the tale of indomitable survivors and the remarkable lives they formed

Louisa Walters is Features Editor at the Jewish News and specialises in food and travel writing

Holocaust survivor Ann Super and her family
Holocaust survivor Ann Super and her family

Three years ago the Jewish News collaborated with the now Princess of Wales on a profoundly moving collection of photographic portraits of Holocaust survivors, which went on display at the Imperial War Museum (IWM) in London. Kate took two of the photos herself. The exhibition is opening at IWM North in Manchester on Holocaust Memorial Day (27 January) and features four new photographs by Simon Hill, president of the Royal Photographic Society. Generations: Portraits of Holocaust Survivors contains works from 13 contemporary photographers, all members and fellows of RPS, of which The Princess of Wales is a patron. The photos capture the special connection between the survivors and the younger members of their families.

Kate described the survivors in her portraits as “two of the most life-affirming people that I have had the privilege to meet. I look back on their experiences with sadness but also with gratitude that they were some of the lucky few to make it through. Their stories will stay with me forever.”

Yvonne Bernstein with the Princess of Wales

One of her subjects was Yvonne Bernstein, who was photographed with her 11-year-old granddaughter Chloe. “I had a very good model, says Kate. “She was fantastic. It was very special, and I was very honoured.”

She told Yvonne at the time: “You were brilliant, you were very patient.”

“I came out pretty well!” laughed Yvonne.

Raphi Bloom

The inclusion of the four new photographs was arranged by The Fed, Manchester’s largest Jewish social care organisation. Raphi Bloom, Director of Fundraising, Marketing & Communications, says: “The larger and more prominent Holocaust events are, naturally, very London centric. The national Holocaust charities are located in London and if events take place around Parliament or with the Royal Family, naturally these will take place in the capital. However, the incredible survivors in Manchester and the North West should be recognised and since joining The Fed I have worked hard to ensure that, via the My Voice project, more of a spotlight is shone on them. When I heard that Generations was coming to IWM North I felt that it was only right that these incredible men and women be featured in the city that they settled in after the war. They have all contributed to making Manchester the great city it is.”

My Voice project, run by The Fed, publishes the lifestory books of Holocaust survivors and refugees who live in and around Greater Manchester, in their own voices. To date 34 books are in print, with 10 more in production. The original concept for this unique project was provided by Margit Cohen, a Survivor, who came to the UK on the Kindertransport in 1938. She told Juliette Pearce, who manages the project: “I need you to tell my life story, my whole life story, before I die”.

“This is one of the most important jobs I’ve done, says Simon Hill. “Certainly one of those I’ve enjoyed most. To meet the survivors has been an incredible honour. I hope the exhibition moves on and takes everyone’s story with it to new venues. Photography enables us to extend lives. I hope it opens up an aspect of Jewish heritage to non-Jews. I’m not Jewish but it’s given me insight into Jewish history and traditions. Everyone here was an immigrant to Britain and Britain is so much richer for having then here.”

All the newly photographed survivors were honoured and excited to be included in the project.

Ike Alterman with his daughter and granddaughters in Peel Square, Manchester

Itzki ‘Ike’ Alterman was born in 1928 in Poland. He survived four concentration camps and a death march. After the war he came to England as one of the Windermere Children and established a thriving jewellery business in Manchester. Just before Yom Kippur in 1942 at the age of 13 Ike faced selection in the square of the ghetto in Ostrowiec. His mother, sister and brother were marched out of the square at gunpoint and taken to Treblinka where they were murdered immediately. The abiding memory he has is of his little brother, with his hands raised, a rifle pointed at him walking away. Ike and his father were sent to a forced labour camp and were then separated. To be pictured in Peel Square in Manchester, the city that became his home and where he raised a family, and built a business and rebuilt his life, with his daughters Elaine and Fiona and granddaughter Danni, is hugely symbolic.

Ruth and Werner Lachs with their great-grandchildren

Werner Lachs, 96, born in Germany, fled to England in 1939 with the help of British Secret Intelligence Servicer Officer Frank Foley. His wife Ruth, 86, was born in Hamburg and survived the war hidden in several locations, including a sandpit overnight in Holland. She was helped by the Underground Workers group. Ruth and Werner married in 1962. They have three children, nine grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren. They are pictured with their hanukkiah and three of their great-grandchildren, Amaya, Dana and Joshua. “It won’t be forgotten the terrible times we had with the Nazis and we hope it never happens again,” says Ruth. “It’s just a reminder to people that the generations have made a decent life after the war for themselves. I think about it, but thank goodness we came out of it.”

Marianne Philipps with her family

Marianne Philipps was born in Berlin. After the November Pogrom in 1938, she travelled alone on the Kindertransport to England. She is photographed with her two children, Frank and Miriam, and two of her grandchildren, Samuel and Naomi. Marianne is holding the chronicle on the Hirsch family history, written by Marianne’s father Martin, who was murdered in Auschwitz along with her younger brother. Marianne has always loved needlework, like her mother. Her grandson is holding one of the tapestries that Marianne created.

Anne Super (main photo) was born in Warsaw in 1938. In 1941 as Germans marched her family from their home, her mother pushed her through a hedge to a waiting milkwoman, who saved her life. Anne never saw her parents again. Anne spent the war years hidden and later emigrated to South Africa and became an optometrist. She married Maurice, had three children and moved to Manchester. Anne is pictured with one of her sons, Jon, and grandchildren Monty and Elana, among the greenery of her conservatory, resonating with the hedge towards which she was pushed by her mother in order to save her life.

Generations: Portraits of Holocaust Survivors opens at IWM North on Friday 27 January. Admission is free.

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