Holocaust Survivor Makes Art: Art Therapy Providing Outlets for Untold Narratives

Art Therapy Symposium showcases healing through art


“There’s a desensitization with graphic images today. Esther’s pieces are different, and draw in people to listen to her narrative...”

Molly Dubin
Curator at the Jewish Museum in Milwaukee

As part of the Art Therapy Symposium hosted at Mount Mary University, Molly Dubin, curator at the Jewish Museum in Milwaukee, leads spectators through life during the holocaust, in art of fabric and thread.

“They tell a narrative, Esther’s narrative, of her and her sister’s survival during the Holocaust,” Molly states. “The pieces help educate others about the traumatic history through the eyes of a survivor.”

Esther Nisenthal Krinitz, a Holocaust Survivor, is still able to tell her story years after she has passed away through her artwork. Burdened with the memory of her past, Esther kept her experiences to herself for most of her life. It wasn’t until her daughters later encouraged her to document her experience. At 50 years old, Esther used what her grandmother once taught her, and picked up a needle to sew. What started out as a two piece project eventually became a 36 piece collection that voices Esther’s story of survival.

“Esther’s use of fabric creates a striking juxtaposition to the narratives listed under the pieces,” explains Molly. “The soft comforting material contradicts with the horrors of the story being told.”

The theme of this year’s Art Therapy Symposium is social justice, and Esther’s pieces is no exception. Molly states that these type of pieces not only educate others about the history of the Holocaust, but also gives a platform for open dialogue about current events.

“We strive to bring to light current social injustices and attempted genocides,” Molly says.

Currently, Esther’s art is on display at the Jewish Museum in Milwaukee. Her pieces articulate her emotions and struggle she had with her survival experience. Molly explains that even though Esther never planned on making her art pieces an art exhibit, her daughter was able to create programs around the fabric pieces, hoping to inspire others to share their own narratives through art.

“When you go through an experience like that, you can never get over it, but you can come to terms with it.”

Blanche Brown

Don't be afraid to emerge from the ashes of failure for this is where the courage to lead is born.

"From the Ashes" by Blanche Brown