University of Minnesota
Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies
chgs@umn.edu
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CHGS

Seth Kramer

Seth Kramer is from West Orange, New Jersey and is now a writer, director and film producer. His work, Untitled (1994), was shown originally in the Jewish Museum exhibition,TOO JEWISH, curated by Norman Kleeblat. Kramer's work reflected the growing interest in the Holocaust as a subject, especially as it had become Americanized through the opening of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and Hollywood's attempts to tell the story through feature length films.

The film shows the Kramer trying to conceptualize the killing of six million Jews by counting 6 million grains of rice.Kramer decided to count rice because he "wanted to have something concrete to show" after his counting was finished. After 10 months of counting, the artist reached one million grains. The number of Jewish children killed during the Holocaust is 1.5 million.

It would be several years later that school children would begin the act of counting objects to understand the magnitude of the Holocaust, as witnessed in the Six Million Paper Clips project created by a Middle school in Whitwell, TN (highlighted in a documentary film in 2004). Certainly Kramer's film did not create the trend, as the film is more hard edged look at indifference, Holocaust denial and the anger and frustration by Kramer in the challenge of counting the rice. Especially when he makes reference to the ease in which the mass numbers of killings took place verses the number of hours it was taking to count the grains.

Artist's Statement

I have been studying the Holocaust for many years now, but a couple of years back I got the opportunity to visit Poland with a couple of Holocaust survivors. I realized when I was there the great difference between reading about the Holocaust at home in America and actually being in Auschwitz with Holocaust survivors who were recounting stories about how their families were murdered. I guess you could say that I understood at that point that there was a great difference between knowing the facts about what happened and actually understanding what happened.

I think that my greatest barrier to understanding the Holocaust has always been the numbers of Jews murdered. Six million by the Nazi's own count. The number six million is often used in reference to the Holocaust, but it really is too large a number; it becomes abstracted. To illustrate this point I started to figure out how old I would be if I lived six million hours in a lifetime. People guessed I'd be eighty or ninety years old. Some said I would be over one hundred. In fact if I was to live six million hours in a life time I would live to be well over six hundred years old. So if we cannot comprehend the number six million, can we possibly understand the magnitude of what happened during the Holocaust?

- Seth Kramer

Artwork: Absence/Presence

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Untitled. Video. 14 minutes. Originally shown in Jewish Museum (New York) exhibition, Too Jewish? 1995. Permission of the artist.

VHS copies of Untitled are available. Please contact CHGS for more information.

Page updated 2013.