October 1989 I was at Montifiore Cemetary saying farewell to my mother-in-law, Sadie Silverman. Looking around, I was seeing the many hundreds of gravestones. I couldn't help but think of the Holocaust. I thought about how during that terrible time the Nazis killed this many people in one town or village in a day. That night in my studio I decided to make something as a memorial to Sadie. The images of the Holocaust remained in my mind.
Almost a month later I finally finished my first, and what I thought then, to be my only piece on the subject. That was 1989, it is now 1997. I now have over thirty pieces. It has been the most important creative experience of my life. I don't know if this series is finished. I can't imagine doing anything that would give me the feeling of purpose that I have while doing this work.
I feel that when people see my collection they will learn and remember. A neighbor was by with his young sons. They asked what the pictures are about. When their father told them, they learned something about the world which they had not known before.
A friend asks why I dwell on this period, as the world has seen many holocausts. When faced with this same question, Eberhard Jackel, a German historian of that era answered, "Never before had any state with all the authority of its responsible leader decided and announced that it intended to kill off a particular group of human beings, including the old, women, children, and the sucklings as completely as possible and had then translated this decision into action with every possible power at the state's command".
The more I learn about the Holocaust, the more I realize the need for people to be aware of that horrible time in history. When someone asks me why I am doing this, the answer is because holocausts can happen.
Sadie Silverman was the mother of my wife, Ruth Silverman Joray. Sadie was quite a lady; president of her ORT branch in Atlanta, bridge player, writer, reading teacher to adults, certified braille transcriptionist, etc. We became very close. My being a non-Jew, Sadie became the Jewish mother I was to have.
It was October 30, 1989 , Montifiore Cemetery; I had just placed a flower on her casket. Looking through teary eyes, the huge cemetery of hundreds of gravestones looked like thousands of people. Thousands of Jews. The Nazis had killed this many people in one day. At that moment I promised Sadie I would do a piece in her honor. It would be of the Holocaust.
The first piece was of a line of prisoners standing at the barbed wire fence at the time of their liberation. The image was reminiscent to me of the lines of tombstones. It was originally a two dimensional drawing. But as it neared completion, I felt it needed dimensionality. I wanted some of the prisoners to be holding onto the fence. I made miniature barbed wire and carved fingers. It worked.
I realized I had something new and exciting. A new medium. I immediately started another. "Fence II" is in this exhibit. Before starting the next piece I went to the Holocaust Awareness Museum at Gratz College. The curator, Dr. Philip Rosen, introduced me to the Holocaust section of the Gratz library. I started to read and look at pictures, and read and look at pictures, and pictures , and more pictures. My God! I had no idea. Well I had an idea, but I really had no idea!
My next piece was "Kristallnacht I". That was the introduction of glass, the first carved figure, and the first pair of miniature eyeglasses. Not only had I become emotionally involved with the history of the Holocaust, but with each piece I was learning something new about this medium which was evolving right before my eyes.
The more that I read, the more I realized that this is what I must do. I have been charged to do this work so that those faces of musicians and poets and writers and children, all those faces from towns which have been completely destroyed, will not be forgotten. I will never forget. Please, don't you forget.