Last February, right before the world shut down, all of us at The Jerusalem Connection, including Jim Hutchens, attended a long-awaited art exhibit at Liberty University. As many of you know, Jim’s wife, Pat Mercer Hutchens, went home to be with her Savior on March 31, 2014. In the four years before her home going, Pat painted The Auschwitz Album Revisited. The paintings were donated to Liberty University’s art department.
The Auschwitz Album Revisited is based upon 193 black and white photographs in an album by Lily Jacobs, a survivor of Auschwitz. The pictures were taken in June of 1944 as an SS officer documented the arrival of a train full of Hungarian Jews. It is the only surviving photographic evidence of the Nazi’s selection process, which is otherwise known to us from the testimonies of survivors.
At Liberty’s art exhibit, we watched as young undergraduate students filed into the art gallery. I was so impressed seeing the way each student studied the paintings and took the time to read the explanations under each portrait. In an age that the horrors of the Holocaust are growing more distant and sometimes blurred, it was heart-warming for all of us to see Pat’s dream coming true. The paintings were educating the next generation, cementing their commitment to “Never Again.”
I left that art exhibit burdened with the need to continue the Holocaust education in the lives of the students. I wanted them to have something to take home so they could study the story of the pictures and paintings in private. Only when you are alone with the materials can you prayerfully reflect on this dark chapter of world history.
I have spent that moment until now putting together a booklet that brings together all the paintings in one place alongside each of the black and white photographs that inspired them. The Nazi photographer who took the pictures may have had motives to dehumanize his subjects, but quite the opposite is achieved in this work. Thanks to the cooperation of Christian Friends of Yad Vashem, this booklet includes high resolution copies of the original photographs that are stored safely in Yad Vashem’s archives. Also, each painting includes Pat’s explanations of what moved her to focus on specific women and children from the photographs.
Today, there are those who brazenly claim that the Holocaust is a myth, a lie. Those of us who are still alive must speak for the ones who cannot. Antisemitism is again rearing its ugly head worldwide. Once more, Jews are the target of choice to blame for the world’s problems, whether it is the global pandemic or the racial protests. The chapter of evil in the world is not over. It must continue to be actively fought against. One way of continuing that fight, is remembering. Remembering is resistance.
Our goal with this treasured collection of paintings and the photos that inspired them is to continue to distribute the booklet to organizations and individuals who can carry the message to our next generation. If you would like to continue to contribute to bringing this work to schools, churches, synagogues, we welcome donations to our Holocaust Education fund.
President, The Jerusalem Connection