Today we went on a most interesting Temple Micah field trip to the Ripley Center, part of the Smithsonian Institution, to see an exhibit of 36 tapestries made by a most talented woman.
Esther Nisenthal Krinitz was a 12-year-old girl in Poland when the Nazis invaded the country in 1939. After 3 years of occupation that was increasingly brutal, they started marching the Jews of her small village away to death camps.
She and her sister said a tearful goodbye to their family and managed to pass themselves off as Catholics during the rest of the war. They worked for farmers and even enlisted in the Polish army at one point. Esther had quite a reputation as both a seamstress and a cook.
After the war they ended up in a displaced persons camp, where they both married other survivors and eventually made their way to America.
Esther constantly told stories of those war years, never embellishing but always amazing her listeners with her exploits motivated by her sheer will to survive.
It was not until she was 50 years old that Esther began to make elaborate handmade tapestries depicting her life in Poland before and during the war and her subsequent life in America. They were painstakingly created, each one focusing on a different episode.
At first she knew nothing of perspective. But by the third or fourth, she had learned about the third dimension. Some scenes are a snapshot, where others show what happened over the course of time.
But each is a gem which always dwells on the beauty of the country despite the brutality of what was going on.
In the one below, while she and her sister were tending cows, they looked across to see young boys being brutalized and killed when they could work no longer. It depicts the thin line between good and evil.
Although Esther is no longer living, we were fortunate to have her daughter as our tour guide today. She told a fascinating story of her mother’s life and provided additional insight to each of the tapestries on view. She is now heading up a non-profit organization aimed at spreading this most unusual story.
This free exhibit is well worth a visit!