Esther Krinitz (1927-2001) was a Holocaust survivor from southeastern Poland. When the Nazis ordered the town’s Jews to report for relocation, 15-year-old Esther and her 13-year-old sister, Mania were separated from their family and never saw them again. For the duration of the war, Esther and Mania moved from refuge to refuge, often on the verge of discovery.
At the age of 50, Esther began to stitch together in fabric her stories of survival during the Holocaust. Initially created only to pass along family history, the 36 needlework and fabric art panels are a vivid and realistic collection that covers her experiences from 1942 through 1949. Created over a 20-year period, the tapestries illustrate Esther’s experiences in pre-war Poland, the coming of the Nazi exterminators, and Soviet conquest at the end of the war.
In 2003, Esther’s daughters collected their mother’s work into an exhibit titled “Fabric of Survival: The Art of Esther Nisenthal Krinitz,” which then began touring the country. With funding from Ohio Humanities, “Fabric of Survival” is on view at the Columbus Museum of Art through June 14, 2015.
The most familiar representations of the Holocaust are in documentary film, works of history, novels, and film dramatizations. What makes “Fabric of Survival: The Art of Esther Nisenthal Krinitz” unique is its use of textiles to emphasize a particular place. The tapestries create a comforting sense of familiarity, while still conveying the inhumanity of the Holocaust. At a time when fewer and fewer Holocaust survivors remain, Esther’s tapestries serve as a lasting testimony to this bleak chapter of history.
To learn more about the exhibit and visiting the Columbus Museum of Art:
Photo credit: Esther Nisenthal Krinitz, Swimming in the River, 1978, Embroidery on linen, Art and Remembrance.