University of Minnesota
Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies
chgs@umn.edu
612-624-0256


CHGS

Gerda Meyer Bernstein

Gerda Meyer Berstein was a refugee from Germany in 1939. She was sent as a member of the Kindertransport to England in 1938. Her work is a memorial to those who died, and a small attempt to recreate the stifling atmosphere of the camps.

Artist Statement

Shrine, is an installation that honors the victims of the Holocaust by refusing to let their voices be silenced. In my native Germany, I lived through Kristallnacht and experienced severe violence and social upheaval. I left Germany in 1939 in one of the last children's transports to England; however, many of my family members perished.

Shrine evokes the claustrophobic environment of the cattle cars used by Nazis to transport their victims to the concentration camps. The claustrophobia is emphasized through repetition of photographs of the ovens on the left wall of the installation. On the right wall of the installation are photos of the infamous commander of the Auschwitz camp, Rudolph Höss. He was tried by the Supreme National Tribunal of Warsaw, found guilty and executed at Auschwitz on April 16, 1947.

I believe art has the power to change society. I want my work to provoke thought and debate in the viewer as well as an emotional response. No matter how painful the truth may be, it must be given a voice. Primo Levi's words still resonate today: "How much of the concentration camp world is dead and will not return? How much is back and coming back?"

In spite of the harsh reality of my work, it also addresses healing, hope and continuity. In a strange sense, the large photo of the Auschwitz oven on the back wall represents hope. People from all over the world travel to Auschwitz to pay tribute to the victims who died there. They place flowers in the ovens and light votive candles. These are the signs of life and hope for future generations.

Artworks: Witness and Legacy

Shrine

Shrine, 1991 Installation
144 x 300

On the right of the installation are photos of the Commandant of Auschwitz, Rudolph Höss,who was hanged after a trial in 1946 where he was accused of killing 2 million people. In this space, note that the hay provides a visual acoustical role. The overall sense is clausterphobic.

Shrine. detail Detail of Shrine
Shrine

Shrine, 1991 (detail) Installation
144 x 300

A detail of the right wall showing barbed wire and photos of Rudolph Höss at his 1946 trial.

Shrine

Shrine, 1991 (detail) Installation
144 x 300

Detail of Höss at his trial. The artist seems to ask the question, "What does evil look like?"

Shrine Detail of Shrine.
Shrine Detail of Shrine.

Page updated 2013.