Artist: Todd Weinstein
Darkness Into Light: Re-Emergence of Jewish Culture in Germany
In 1969 in my hometown of Detroit, Michigan I was a student in a photography school. One day I needed to rent a camera to do a project, and so I found a store that rented cameras. I told the man at the shop that I did not have a lot of money and wanted to make sure that I could return the camera early the next morning in order to reduce the fee. I told him that I would bring it back the next morning at 9:00 a.m. When I left the shop I knew something was wrong. The next day I arrived at the shop at the appointed time. All the lights were on and the gates pulled up, but the man was absent. I was upset. I drove around the corner and parked. As I peeked around the corner, I saw the man get out of his car and open the door to the shop. I ran back to the shop and asked the man why he was waiting in his car until I left. He said that with a name like Weinstein I should understand. I understood the anti-Semitic remarks and paid my bill. This episode never left me. I moved to New York City very soon after that.
In 1983, I went to Washington, D.C. where 15,000 Holocaust survivors were being linked up to a computer so that they could find the friends and relatives from whom they had been separated during the World War II. I ran into the parents of childhood friends, people who had never spoken out when we were growing up about what had happened to them in the war. I was able to photograph them and hear their testimonials, but I was even more moved and haunted witnessing their collective pilgrimage to Washington. Just how did people find strength to deal with such a horrific past and want to keep living?
In 1994, I was invited by the German Government to be an artist in residence in Germany. It was then that I picked up the many threads of past experiences and began my photographic project on the re-emergence of Jewish culture in Germany.
My work has taken me back to Germany to photograph commemorative ceremonies of the 50th anniversary of the liberation from concentration camps and to continue documenting contemporary Jewish life. I have seen, and captured on film, the renaissance of Jewish culture in the same land that is soaked in the blood of their people. My desire to understand why people are returning to live in a place ridden with painful memories and anti-Semitism is leading me to search deeper. It is my belief that in Germany today lie many clues to understanding and overcoming racism and hatred. By photographing Jewish culture reinvigorating itself in German society, I hope to help people expunge the racism within themselves.
After spending six years returning frequently to Germany, I now seek the funds to complete the project. At Buchenwald I met children survivors and perpetrators and wish to return to Germany to document their search.
This will entail documenting the activities of a group called One By One, which works at bringing together the children of Jews and Germans that lived in Germany and Europe at the time of the Holocaust. On them rests the hope of a better future for everyone, as the members come together to share their troubled past history and their similar internal conflicts. I believe that the efforts underway in Germany are crucial steps in the healing process and represent a sincere effort to confront and eradicate racial hatred and intolerance. What is happening in Germany now sets a fine example for the rest of the world in their own struggles to end racial intolerance.