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Inbar discovered the family she never knew in Berlin. Art was born from the shock - voila! culture


An internet search led Inbar Hutzen-Zelniker to a journey full of surprises following her family members who perished in the Holocaust. To get to know them better, she began to paint pictures, which are now on display in Berlin

On video: the film shown at the exhibition "Outlander" (Gili Danon's film)

The artist Inbar Hutzen-Zelniker postponed the visit to Johannisberger Street until the very last moment of her trip to Berlin.

She received the mysterious address from a woman from some explanatory body of the German government, which she reached via the Internet when she googled her last name "hutsen" together with the word "Berlin".

It was a little before she and her husband decided to go to the German capital for the first time, and since she knew her family came from there, she thought it might be worth taking a look.

But to her surprise, the same search brought up many results, including the same website.

And even more strangely, after she sent an email to the address she found there, the same woman got back to her with a detailed letter with information about a family of that name, and also mentioned the same street in town.

What are the chances that she, Amber, has anything to do with all of this?

She assumed she would find a normal street there and nothing more.

Indeed, when she and her husband arrived at the place, just a few hours before the flight back to Israel, they arrived at a side street in Berlin, green and quiet.

Inbar continued walking a few more meters until she reached house number 3, and there at the entrance, on the sidewalk, she found it.

There were five stumbling blocks, slightly covered with leaves that had fallen from the trees and mud left by those who came and went.

But under the dirt she saw - there was no mistaking it - the name "CHOTZEN", an extraterrestrial, engraved on each of the five stones.

She wiped them with a tissue, and as she continued, the realization - and the shock - grew stronger.

Inbar Hutzan Tselniker (photo: official website, Inbar Hutzan Tselniker)

"The feeling is like when you look at a tombstone. The name of the man is written, and the years in which he was born and died," Inbar recalls.

"I've never come across the name 'outsider' except for my small family. It suddenly dawned on me that the people there were my family, that I had a big family that I didn't know. But almost at the same moment that I realized it, I suddenly saw words like 'Auschwitz' and 'Theresienstadt' , and the story became self-evident."

These people, her family, are all victims of the Holocaust, she thought then, but how come she doesn't know them?

"I realized that they were connected to me, that they were completely connected to me, and suddenly I felt a physical connection to the place. A connection that I didn't even feel comfortable with."

And she explains, "Why do I suddenly feel a connection to Germany? I'm Israeli. Third generation. I have no reason to feel a connection there."

"But", she says, "I felt him at that moment, and there was no need to keep denying it."

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Almost seven years have passed since that visit to Johannisberger 3, located in the Wilmersdorf district of Berlin, and not very far from there, in the neighborhood museum "Villa Oppenheim", an exhibition of Inbar's paintings is currently on display.

In the paintings - the figures of those people whose names she did not recognize then in the stones on the same street: members of the Hutsen family.

"Wait, what is that smile?"

"I'm not a person of research, who writes. I'm a person of painting. So I drew them, the simplest thing in the world"

Until the Nazis came to power, the Hutsen family led a fairly normal life in Berlin.

The parents, Joseph and Elsa Hutzen, lovingly raised their four sons: Appi, Hugo-Kurt, Erich and Ulrich.

All the boys were enthusiastic athletes and members of various sports clubs, and the whole family loved to relax in nature.

But things changed a lot after 1933. As the Nazis' decrees grew and expanded, so did the family members become more and more restricted.

First, the boys were removed from their social settings, and deported to Jewish-only institutions.

Then these were also closed anyway.

When the war started Joseph and all four sons, who were in their twenties, became forced laborers.

In 1942 the son Erich and his wife Ilsa were sent to the camp in Riga.

In the same year Joseph also died of exhaustion in Berlin.

In 1943, the brothers Hugo-Kurt and Ulrich and their wives Lisa and Ruth were sent to Theresienstadt, and later to Auschwitz, where they all perished except Ruth.

Of the nuclear family, only the mother Elsa, and the eldest son Efi, who managed to go underground, survived.

From a family album.

From the right: Ulrich, Elsa, Erich, Joseph and Hugo-Kurt Hutzen (photo: official website, GHWK Archiv)

In the photo on the right: Ruth, Ulrich, Elsa, Hugo-Kurt, Lisa and Bouzka (Api's partner), October 1942 (photo: official website, GHWK Archiv)

The connection between Inbar and that family goes through her grandfather, Shlomo Hutzen, who was Joseph Hutzen's nephew.

Those whose names are engraved on the five stones are Ulrich, Erich, Hugo-Kurt, Lisa and Ilse.

"I grew up in a family where they didn't talk about the Holocaust. My grandfather immigrated to Israel in 1935, and died when I was 11 years old. I only knew that his mother perished in the Holocaust, and besides that - nothing," says Inbar.

"When I became aware of their story, it completely swept me away."

She learned about the family story from a book in German, "News from Outsider", written by the historian Barbara Shiv, whom she met while searching for more information about her relatives.

The book records the memories of son Efi, who died childless in the 1990s.

The stumbling blocks commemorating the members of the Hutsen family at the entrance to Johannisberger 3 in Berlin (Photo: Walla! System, Shir Hess)

From those five names engraved on a sidewalk, a whole world began to come back to life.

After Amber first saw the photos of the family members, all of them young and sturdy, happy and loving - she had to get to know them more closely.

"I'm not a person of research, who writes. I'm a person of painting," she tells me simply.

"Then I drew them, the simplest thing in the world. I said to myself... 'Okay, now I'm drawing Bobbie - which is Hugo-Kurt's nickname - okay, so it's Bobby'. 'Now I'm drawing Lisa, okay, it's Lisa' . and so on. That's how I simply studied them. I drew them for myself to know who was who. And that's how more and more and more drawings were collected."

Photo from the exhibition.

Lisa on the banks of the river, 2021 (photo: official website, photography of works - Sigal Colton)

Photo from the exhibition.

Brandenburg Gate, digital collage from a postcard sent from Theresienstadt (photo: official website, Inbar Hutzan)

She continued to search for information about the family, and to her surprise it just kept coming.

Throughout her journey, which spanned years, she met more and more German researchers whose work dealt with her family's story for the past decades.

"The research enriched my paintings," she says.

"But I think that the knowledge I came to is a different knowledge from historical information, because of the emotion, because of this thing of art. Because when you draw someone you try to think, 'Wait, what is that smile? What is the other meaning?'. And I think I got to know a terrible terrible Deep with family members. Emotional, real. Even if it's not 100 percent true - that's how they are to me."

The more Inbar continued to paint her family members, the more the themes began to develop from the paintings.

The story of the cheerful Berlin family with the four sons, the sturdy athletic boys, is revealed through her paintings, revealing how wonderful their lives were, how much they loved their home, their homeland, and each other - when above all hovers the inevitable end of the Holocaust.

"Because they didn't speak a word about the Holocaust at home, it was something that was blocked and I couldn't express it at all, never. And when I could, I connected with it very strongly, and it influenced the way I decided to paint the paintings."

"So that it will not be forgotten"

Inbar's exhibition opens with a large painting in which the mother of the family, Elsa, is written across its width in black letters: "!Liebe Mutti", and in a free translation from German: "My beloved mother".

Elsa returns again and again in the paintings, and the viewer from the side will wonder about the meaning of her big role in the story.

In another painting - whose name is revealed by a small sign: 'La Pieta' - Elsa and her son Erich are seen, with the latter watching his mother's feet.

The painting is based on a photograph of the family on a fairly normal Sunday morning, where those present are eating cake.

But the clues that immediately link him to Michelangelo's famous sculpture, "Pietta", in which Mary cradles the body of her son Jesus after he was crucified, begin to raise disturbing questions about the role that the mother and son play in the story of the Hutsen family.

A painting from the exhibition.

"My dear mother!", 2018 (photo: official website, photography of works - Sigal Colton)

A painting from the exhibition.

The Faith, 2019 (photo: official website, photography of works - Sigal Colton)

Reading the archival materials also presented in the exhibition, shows that Elsa herself was a Protestant who converted.

And hence new questions emerge about what this meant for the family in Nazi Germany.

Apparently, thanks to Elsa's Aryan origin, the deportation of her sons was delayed more and more, and she herself, as the paintings and findings in the exhibition reveal, fought to free them again and again from Gestapo detention.

In another painting by Inbar, which, like many, was drawn on top of a copy of a real letter sent to Elsa from the boys, when they had already been deported to Theresienstadt, Elsa is shown as Marian in Delacroix's famous picture "Freedom Leads the People" - as a symbol of the struggle for freedom.

A painting from the exhibition.

Elsa as "Liberty", a postcard sent by her son from Theresienstadt in 1944 (photo: courtesy of the family, "Liberty", Inbar Hutzen)

The story of the family, as much as it touches and excites first of all the creator - who is also a relative of the family herself, as mentioned - is not an unusual story among Jewish families in Germany, and especially in Berlin.

"One of the things that characterizes this family is that they were just like everyone else in the city at the time. They were a normal family," testifies Inbar.

"And that's actually one of the messages. And that's one of the reasons I wanted to present the exhibition specifically in Berlin. I wanted to present to people who are 'like them'. Here in Israel I had to explain things, such as the fact that the family members were athletes, that they were part of a sailing club for example... In Berlin it's something which is so acceptable and normal - they were just like everyone else."

"It's not that in Berlin the exhibition is presented as something niche, 'Jewish,' but it tells a terrible story about what the German people did to their own people," she emphasizes.

The exhibition is shown not far from the house where the family lives.

"Villa Oppenheim" museum in Berlin (photo: courtesy of those photographed, Inbar Hutzan)

"The exhibition reminded the researchers of the importance of their work."

The opening of the exhibition, in September (photo: courtesy of those photographed, Inbar Hutzan)

"After all, without the work of the researchers, another moment and the memory of this family would have disappeared, and I would have had no chance of knowing anything about my family"

The exhibition opened at the end of last September, and among the visitors who came to it were also many of the German researchers that Anbar met during the investigation about her family.

She excitedly tells how at the opening event some of them came to her and thanked her for her work.

"I think the exhibition gave them strength to continue, reminded them of the importance of their work, of this entire history preservation enterprise," she tries to explain their reactions to me.

"After all, without the work of the researchers, one more moment and the memory of this family would have disappeared, and I would have had no chance to know anything about my family. But this is what actually happened: while getting to know the members of this family, I was able to rebuild my roots. While I was painting Elsa and Joseph's house I thought must have been similar to my family's house, which was, it turns out, so close to them. For example, in retrospect I realized that one of the boys, Hugo-Kurt, was actually named after Joseph's beloved brother, who is my great-great-grandfather, who was killed in the First World War."

Among the visitors at the opening of the exhibition was also one guest whose reaction affected Inbar in particular.

It was the same woman who worked in the information agency of the German government, who directed her then, seven years ago, to the home address of the members of the Hutsen family - where it all began.

Over the years, Inbar realized that the same woman was actually also responsible for placing the family members' stumbling blocks on the street where they lived.

She approached her and told her that she enjoyed the exhibition.

But then she also told her: "My grandfather was a Nazi."

Inbar listened, but the news was hard to digest.

"We Israelis are so used to knowing this story from the side of the victims," ​​she says, "and suddenly, in the most obvious way, I had to think about the side of the criminals as well. The side of them and their descendants, and how they deal with this guilt."

A painting from the exhibition.

The deportation (according to Abel Pen), 2017 (photo: official website, photography of works - Sigal Colton)

The exhibition is indeed attended by mostly local people, Berliners, including students from various schools and seminaries.

When I arrived at the museum alone one sunny day, I was happy to walk among the works in the modest museum, when in the background I could hear Inbar's voice speaking in Hebrew, from a film made for the exhibition and shown in it.

How is it that you feel connected to a place that is so far from home?

"The Holocaust interrupted people's lives," Inbar tells me in a conversation between us about a month later in Israel, "but it also interrupted our lives, the connection to our roots."

Now the museum is discussing the question of whether and how to transport it to other places, maybe even to Israel.

In the end, it doesn't matter if the visitors to the exhibition are Jewish or not, Berliners or not.

After all, the Holocaust is, whether they like it or not, the property of all humanity.

"The main theme that emerges from the exhibition is humanism," says Inbar, "and our common task is to instill history, and find different ways to tell the story to make it accessible to as many people as possible.

The exhibition "Chotzen" is presented at "Villa Oppenheim", Villa-Oppenheim, in the Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf district of Berlin, from September 29, 2022 to March 26, 2023, admission is free

  • culture


  • exhibition

  • Berlin

  • holocaust

  • Germany

Source: walla

All tech articles on 2022-11-27

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