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Testimonials

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Sandro Rosell
FC Barcelona President
Sunday, September 24, 2017

The second phase of monumental installation, Eyewitness by photojournalist B.A. Van Sise was unveiled at the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust on Wednesday, May 10. The current installation consists of 20 photographs of Holocaust survivors who live in New York City at large scale (between 4 and 13 feet high) filling the windows of the Museum’s façade. Phase 2 will consist of 11 portraits that will be placed in windows on the third floor opposite James Carpenter’s Reflection Passage, a permanent installation that provides a contemplative space as people move through the Museum.

Photojournalist B.A. Van Sise spent the past year photographing 31 Holocaust survivors who are part of the Museum’s Speakers Bureau and Gallery Educators. Eyewitness brings Holocaust survivors into the community with the Museum’s first public art installation. The individual history of each survivor will be available on the Museum’s website and a printed pamphlet available at the Museum.

“These images honor the indomitable spirit of Holocaust survivors,” said Museum President and CEO Michael S. Glickman. “As New York’s contribution to the global responsibility to never forget, Eyewitness presents a striking visual narrative featuring individual experiences of the Holocaust nearly 80 years later.”

For B.A. Van Sise, photographing these portraits has been life-changing. “In a 15-year career as a photojournalist, this has possibly been the single hardest assignment I have ever taken on,” said Van Sise. “I chat with the subjects, listening to their stories, and I end up carrying part of their lives within me, after I leave. I was an elementary school teacher in a previous life, and many of the survivors were roughly the age of the first graders I used to teach, when they went through the Holocaust. Meeting these people, you realize: they were never children.”

Bios of four survivors featured in Eyewitness:

Lyubov Abramovich is originally from Slonim, Poland. This area later became Belorussia. During the Holocaust, she lost her husband, their only son, and her entire family in a massacre. This nightmare led her to flee to the forest and join the partisans in August 1942. Lyuba fought as a soldier in all the battles of her brigade, and also helped to care for the wounded. For one of her missions, she organized a group of seven women partisans (including herself) to blow up a train. By the end of the war, she had helped to derail 18 enemy troop trains. For her bravery she was awarded the Red Star and the Fatherland War Medal. After the war, Lyuba testified in trials of the war crimes of the Regional Kommisar and the Chief of Police from Slonim. Today, she volunteers her time as a member of the Speakers Bureau of the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust.

Maximillian Lerner was born in 1924 in Vienna. After Max was expelled from school, the family fled to Paris. After a year of challenges, they secured visas to the United States and in April 1941, they arrived safely in NY. At 18, Mr. Lerner enlisted in the U.S. Army knowing he would eventually be drafted. He was eager to be involved in the war. Because of his language skills, he was assigned to the Military Intelligence Training Center at Camp Ritchie in Maryland. Almost a year after volunteering for service, Mr. Lerner became an American citizen, which he says was the proudest day of his life. He was recruited into the Office of Strategic Services and served as a translator in France for Allied forces. In Germany, Mr. Lerner served as an interrogator for the Army’s counterintelligence corps while still engaging in secret missions for the OSS. He was a special agent with a confidential rank. Today, Mr. Lerner is an author and a member of the Speakers Bureau of the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust.

Toby Levy was born in Chodorow, near Lvov, Poland in 1933. She grew up in an Orthodox family. In spring 1941 the Germans invaded Soviet-occupied Poland and a few months later Jews were forced into ghettos. In fall 1942 her family went into hiding. The family was taken in by a Polish woman who had been a customer in her father’s fabric store. They remained hidden in a barn until June 1944, when they were liberated by the Red Army. The family came to the United States 1949. Today, she volunteers her time as a member of the Speakers Bureau of the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust.

Sol Rosenkranz is originally from Krošniewice, Poland. While living in the ghetto at Krosniewice, Mr. Rosenkranz managed to prevent members of his family from going to a concentration camp by convincing five gentile families in his city to each hide one of his family members. While Mr. Rosenkranz and his brother were working in a labor camp, however, he learned that the rest of his family was being transported to a death camp. Mr. Rosenkranz worked near the rail line and many of the Jews being transported would throw notes out of the car window in the hope that someone would be able to give their family the message; Mr. Rosenkranz received this type of note. Eventually, he and his brother were transported to different concentration camps. Mr. Rosenkranz was in six camps—two in Poland, two in Germany, and two in Czechoslovakia. He found his cousin while in Buchenwald and after being transported to several camps, they were eventually liberated in Terezin. Only one of his brothers survived the camps. He is a former Gallery Educator and member of the Speakers Bureau of the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust.

About B.A. Van Sise

A frequent contributor to the Village Voice, and one of the world's busiest travel photographers, Van Sise has been a staffer for Newsday and AOL CityGuide, and his work has previously appeared in the New York Times, the Daily Mirror of London, Travel + Leisure, Arthur Frommer's Travel Guides, Time Out New York, and the Orlando Sun-Sentinel. He is a graduate of the prestigious Eddie Adams Workshop and a National Press Photographer's Association award-winner.

He holds one degree from Fordham University for Visual Arts and another for Modern Languages: a polyglot, he is fluent or conversational in English, Italian, Spanish, French, German and Russian, with some Hebrew as well.

In his free time, he is a military reservist, a certified yacht skipper and a qualified sport pilot.