To acquire wisdom, one must observe

Univ. affiliated scholar speaks at UN Holocaust Memorial Ceremony

Karen Frostig, a Brandeis Women’s Studies Research Center Affiliated Scholar, spoke at the United Nation’s (UN) Holocaust Memorial Ceremony on Jan. 27. Frostig, the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, spoke of her family’s experience at the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust which was guided by themes of home and belonging. 

“It is important for us to know that work on the history of the Holocaust—which includes the intimate family narratives—is being carried forward through the extraordinary work of scholars and educators,” said the event’s mediator Melissa Fleming, Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications. 

The UN invited two guest speakers, including Frostig, to speak on their grandparents’ lives which had been “upended by the Holocaust.” Frostig was asked to “reflect on this aspect of her life,” for the memorial event. 

While Frostig never met her grandparents, Moses Frostig and Beile Samuely Frostig, she always knew their faces from two small passport photos which hung “prominently” in her family home as a child. “No one ever talked about these photos. They hung in silence, as an open wound,” Frostig explained. 

Her father, Benjamin Frostig, was arrested by the Gestapo in a roundup by the intelligentsia. He was expelled from Vienna in 1938, and it became his job to rescue his parents, Frostig recaccounted, though he was unable to. “Silenced by trauma and shame, my father died in 1971. He never spoke about his heroic journey gaining asylum for seven Austrian Jews in Cuba or his pain,” Frostig explained.

Two decades after her father’s death, Frostig found a box in her mother’s basement in which she found legal documents of her father’s “expulsion from Vienna, multiple deportations and delayed entry into the United States.” Frostig later in life received letters from her cousin which her grandparents had written to her father from 1938 to 1941. “Their letters tell a story of love, hope and persecution,” she said. 

Frostig went on a journey to Vienna and Latvia to recover her family’s history. In Latvia she traveled to Riga, which Frostig reaccounts was “especially profound.” She approached the neglected land covered in rubble, which was once the site of the Jungfernhof concentration camp—“this ground contained my grandparents’ bodies, somewhere, in an unmarked mass grave.”

Frostig remembers the moment she approached this land as “chilling, and it was also a moment filled with love and yearning to be close to my grandparents and protect them with my memory.” Frostig went on to collaborate with the Latvian Jewish community and officials commited to Holocaust rememberance. Since 2010, they have worked to gather information on the 3,985 German and Austrian Jews killed at Jungfernhof and other nearby sites in occupied Latvia. 

The goal of the project is to create a permanent memorial at Jungfernhof, which will bring “survivors, decendants, leaders and community members together to grieve while considering hope grounded in memeory as a means of transforming this unremembered site into a heartfelt place of remembrance.”

From 2013 to 2014, Frostig was the director of the Vienna Project, the first public art memorial of its kind to represent the seven victim groups targeted in the Holocaust in Austria. Frostig was also the director of the Lock(er) of Memory Project, a group dedicated to remembering the victims and survivors of the Jungfernhof concentration camp. Frostig is also a Professor of Expressive Therapies in the College of Art and Design at Lesley University, according to her university staff page

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