A selection of my grandfather's drawings and paintings that inspired UNSPEAKABLE
LETTER FROM THE DIRECTOR
When I was nine years old my grandmother passed away after a long and arduous battle with cancer. I stood at the back of the crowded synagogue next to my older brother. My new patent leather shoes pinched my feet and my wool dress was itchy. I didn’t know my grandmother well, but I thought of her generous smile, her love of dancing, and her remarkable doll collection that was the envy of all the female cousins. As I stood there listening to the rabbi speak in a foreign tongue, my great-aunt Yetta flung herself onto my grandmother’s coffin where she commenced to wail and keen. I looked nervously to my brother and asked what was wrong. He took my hand and said: “Nanny Lisa was the only family she had left.” Only when I was older did I realize that my great-aunt, like many survivors of the Holocaust, had seen, lost, and survived so much more than most of us ever endure. For Yetta to lose the one sibling she had left—the sister who embodied the only remaining link to her own childhood—was a loss she simply could not bear.
My paternal grandparents were two of the estimated 3.5 million Jews who somehow survived the Holocaust. Like many survivors, they rarely spoke about their experiences. We, their descendants, have uneasily gathered their stories, slowly piecing together fragmented tales to create a narrative representing our legacy. As my grandparents’ generation disappears, it is our duty as their progeny to keep their stories of survival alive.
My grandfather Irving was Nanny Lisa’s devoted husband. He started painting when he was a child and only recently gave it up. At 98-years-old, his hands are now too feeble and he cannot see terribly well. Yet his paintings tell a story he often found too difficult to describe in words. These paintings are the inspiration behind Unspeakable, a tribute to my own familial legacy - and to the legacy of all those affected by the Holocaust.