In Thailand, an Unusual Exhibit

By Marissa Brostoff

Published January 23, 2008, issue of January 25, 2008.
  • Print
  • Share Share

The recent history of photographer Yishay Garbasz’s family is a story of migration, elected and forced. Garbasz’s mother, Sala, was born in Berlin. She took refuge from the Nazis in Holland, was deported to concentration camps in Czechoslovakia and in Poland, and finally made her way to Palestine. His father, Jack, was sent to Australia from Poland as a child, in a Kindertransport-like rescue effort. Jack met Sala when both were serving in the Israeli army.

The new Israeli parents may not have expected that their son’s life, like their own, would be a series of long journeys. After a lengthy stint in the United States, Garbasz moved to Thailand, where he currently resides. He recently spent four months working on a photography project in Taiwan.

But his parents would perhaps have been least able to foresee that their son would attempt to retrace his mother’s footsteps. Garbasz was 18 years old when he learned that his mother was a Holocaust survivor. Only after her husband, on his deathbed, enjoined her to write down her life story did she force open the gates of memory. Her account of her youth became Garbasz’s map of Europe. At every meticulously researched point along the way, he took color photographs.

The result is the exhibit In My Mother’s Footsteps, which will premiere January 31 at the Chiang Mai University Art Centre in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

“My mother left parts of her soul in these places, and it was my job to go and collect them,” Garbasz said in an interview with the Forward. In the text that accompanies the images, he writes that he wanted to chronicle “the mundane details of her existence during the Holocaust.”

Asked how Thai audiences have responded to his work, Garbasz said he has been surprised by the extent to which they connected with it.

“This is a very personal project, and in Asia the family is very important,” he said. “I’m not working on six million Jews, I’m working on one Jew. Not everyone knows about the Holocaust, but everyone understood what I was doing.”

For his project, Garbasz photographically retraced his mother’s World War II footsteps. Top to bottom: The wall of one of the six synagogues at Theresienstadt; Christianstadt, a sub-camp of Gross-Rosen in western Poland, where his mother was sent after Theresienstadt, and the apartment the family lived in when they had escaped to Holland from Berlin.

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • British Jews are having their 'Open Hillel' moment. Do you think Israel advocacy on campus runs the risk of excluding some Jewish students?
  • "What I didn’t realize before my trip was that I would leave Uganda with a powerful mandate on my shoulders — almost as if I had personally left Egypt."
  • Is it better to have a young, fresh rabbi, or a rabbi who stays with the same congregation for a long time? What do you think?
  • Why does the leader of Israel's social protest movement now work in a beauty parlor instead of the Knesset?
  • What's it like to be Chagall's granddaughter?
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love.
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.