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JUL 8, 2013

UCLA Student's Photos Focus on Holocaust History

UCLA Center for Jewish Studies Press Release

For a 20-year-old, Holocaust history may seem quite distant both in time and space. However, for Andrew Rosenstein, a photographer who just finished his second year at UCLA, that history has been brought to the present, and he is working to preserve it for the future. Rosenstein’s exhibit, “Light out of Darkness,” consists of 36 intimate portraits of Holocaust survivors living in Los Angeles and telling their life stories to UCLA undergraduates. The students interviewed the Holocaust survivors over the course of the winter quarter, and Andrew documented their moving, transgenerational encounters.

Rosenstein first began working with Holocaust survivors last year through Professor Todd Presner’s course, German 118SL, Between Memory and History: Interviewing Holocaust Survivors in the Digital Age. This class, which was offered this year for the second time as part of UCLA's "service learning" initiative, provides an important opportunity for learning about eyewitness testimony of the Holocaust at a time when the generation of survivors is quickly receding. The two dozen students worked with ten survivors to record their stories as a permanent record in the form of audio guides at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust. Todd Presner is the Sady and Ludwig Kahn Director of the UCLA Center for Jewish Studies and Chair of the Digital Humanities Program, as well as Professor of Germanic Languages and Comparative Literature. 

During the winter quarter of this year, Andrew returned to document the experience through photography. When asked why he worked to create this exhibit, Rosenstein suggested: "History is evident through the ways in which future generations preserve it. That is the fundamental purpose of these photographs. From one perspective, they serve as documents of the ways students learned about the Holocaust from those who experienced it first-hand. But from another perspective, these photographs can be seen quite literally as a single moment in time projected on a wall, and thus it is up to us to give them meaning."

Presner’s class, along with students from Hillel at UCLA’s Bearing Witness program, met with survivors multiple times over the quarter and developed strong bonds with the survivors. The partnership  between the UCLA Center for Jewish Studies, Hillel at UCLA, and the Jewish Family Service’s Café Europa (an organization focused on support and community for survivors) provides a unique opportunity for university-age students to recognize the value of eyewitness testimony of the Holocaust.               

Rosenstein went on to say that, "We look at a photograph and see through the barrier of time, as survivors pass on their experiences, and students are engaged by those experiences. We see back through the blurred veil into the darkness, and we realize the necessity of ensuring that all future generations understand and learn from this history by making it a part of our shared history. As survivors tell their stories and as future generations pass on the knowledge of the Holocaust light emerges from the darkness. A photograph that captures the fragile bond that joins the past, present, and future.”

The photographs will be on display at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust through the end of August.