Many of Pier Marton’s insights about how we must think critically about representations of the Holocaust, Jews, and antisemitism have made their way into the programming I have developed at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. We need new voices to help us navigate… — Peter Fredlake, former Director of Teacher Education and Special Programs at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum (2005 – 2016)
The most remarkable achievement… Not a moment is wasted, nor a word… Individual identity, individual healing, individual transcendence are his subjects. It deserves a much wider audience. — John Russell reviewing Pier Marton’s Say I’m a Jew in the New York Times
What of the Holocaust is being remembered in this literature and how? What kind of knowledge is being passed down? And how do we grasp the world today in light of such knowledge? These are the questions we find embedded in the works of a current generation of writers and artists born after, but indelibly shaped by, the Holocaust, artists like Art Spiegelman, Shimon Attie, Ellen Rothenberg, Vera Frenkel, and Pier Marton. — James E. Young, Leading Scholar on the Memory of the Shoah
Pier Marton has been an integral part of our institution since 2004. Because of his expertise in film, every year of my tenure, Pier has introduced and created discussions around our monthly film screening. His choices are invariably intriguing and his comments continuously illuminating and, even if at times provocative, always accessible to the audience. He is truly one of our community’s favorite speakers, as indicated by the attendance numbers.
Pier has presented Holocaust related themes at programs nationally and internationally and he has built and sustained a reputation for excellence.
A person of integrity and honesty; I always feel I can depend on his constructive and honest opinions and reactions. He has been, and continues to be, a distinctive and exceptional resource for the Holocaust Museum and Learning Center. — Dan Reich, Director of Education and Curator, St. Louis, Holocaust Museum and Learning Center
— MORE ENDORSEMENTS BELOW —
WAR MAKES MURDERERS OUT OF OTHERWISE DECENT PEOPLE.
All wars, and all decent people.
Benjamin Ferencz, Chief Prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials, Instrumental to the Creation of the International Criminal Court
Remembering is meaningless unless it is subversive, unless it seeks to overthrow and to ruin the pyramids of callousness, hatred, opportunism and falsehood.
Adapted from Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel
[“prayer” is replaced by “remembering“]
Born in Paris after WWII and the systematic murder of two thirds of European Jewry – his parents [Ervin & Martha] having barely survived – Pier Marton has taken up the responsibility to face that history today – history is a continuum…
Thus, much of his work revolves around issues of violence and justice. His parents did outlive the war, one in hiding, the other in the resistance… but not his grandparents. One was last seen alive in Auschwitz in the line leading to the gas chamber, two of them died shortly after Hungarian fascists brought Jews to be shot into to the freezing Danube. Typically for European second-generation children, he had no grandparents.
More Here –> I DID NOT HAVE GRANDPARENTS
TALKS A St. Louis city-wide Yom HaShoah Commemoration on the Jewish Resistance (cf. pictures and text below) — Recent lectures include: the Bálint Ház-Jewish Community Center in Budapest w. sociologist Andras Kovács (cf. interview in Szombat) — The Body of Knowledge: Successful Holocaust Films and their Doubles (Yad Vashem, Israel, and in the US) & The Holocaust in 1,000 Years (St. Louis University/Fordham University, NYC) — An ongoing (13 years) annual presentation of Shoah or genocide-related films at the Holocaust Museum and Learning Center in St. Louis — War & The Arts, a Presentation at the School of the Visual Arts Conference at the Algonquin Hotel in NYC.
SAY I’M A JEW A videotape about European Second Generation Jews and Jewish identity: SAY I’M A JEW. The most remarkable achievement … not a moment is wasted, nor a word… It is the wonder of Mr. Marton’s film that his young people heal their wounds almost before our eyes. They end not as victims, but as exemplary human beings. And we leave convinced that – to quote again from Mr. Marton – ‘nothing short of complete healing is required of all of us.’ This, if ever, is a film that justifies the title of the show -‘Video Art and Identity’ – Individual identity, individual healing, individual transcendence are his subjects. It deserves a much wider audience. John Russell in the New York Times – NOW in the collection of the Mémorial de la Shoah in Paris.
JEW Say I’m a Jew is part of an installation called JEW which, after opening at the Spertus Museum in Chicago, became part of Witness and Legacy when it toured the US through many museums and galleries. Now JEW is part of the Florida St. Petersburg Holocaust Museum collection. A few remnant websites still display some elements: the sponsoring institution, University of Minnesota’s Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies & the University of Tennessee (with links needing updates). JEW is referred to on the monumental French website La Solution Finale de la Question Juive. One of many reviews: TO FORGET IS TO KILL TWICE.
WRITINGS/INTERVIEWS Two published texts: A Plea Against the Fluff in Absence/Presence: Critical Essays On The Artistic Memory Of The Holocaust, edited by Stephen Feinstein (Syracuse Press) & Singing at the Ghetto’s Gate in the New Art Examiner (Chicago). Three interviews: St. Louis Jewish Light & BOMB Magazine (NY) & Szombat Magazine (Budapest). Quoted extensively in Matthew Baigell’s Jewish-American Artists and the Holocaust & in The Persistence of Holocaust Imagery in Holocaust Art in The Holocaust’s Ghost : Writings on Art, Politics, Law and Education and cited in Dora Apel’s Memory Effects: The Holocaust and the Art of Secondary Witnessing. Consulted by Joshua Hirsch for his Afterimage: Film, Trauma And The Holocaust. – (Cf. EARLY HOMAGE TO ERNST FRIEDRICH)
Sunday, March 25, 2018
Directed by Michal Jaskulski and Lawrence Loewinger
Poland, USA, 2016, 90 minutes
Polish, English and Hebrew with English subtitles
In a story that begins with murder and ends with reconciliation, one man persuades the people of Kielce, Poland to confront the truth about the darkest moment in their past: Kielce was the site of Europe’s last Jewish pogrom.
In 1946, 40 Holocaust survivors seeking shelter in a downtown building were murdered by townspeople. Communist authorities suppressed the story, leaving the town deeply embittered.
Conflict over the pogrom was still a festering wound when Bogdan Bialek, a Catholic Pole, moved to Kielce in the late 1970s. He was shocked by the poisoned atmosphere of his new town. Trained as a psychologist, he has made it his life’s work both to persuade people to embrace their past and to reconnect the city with the international Jewish community.
Cf. Interview with one of the co-directors, Lawrence Loewinger
All Free at 1 p.m.
St. Louis Holocaust Museum & Learning Center Theater
Excerpts from a page of Colleague Endorsements
• • • ELIE WIESEL-Nobel Peace Prize recipient
I am moved by what you are doing, I hope your video will reach many viewers. I hope it will bring them closer to a world they could never enter.
• • • SUSAN SONTAG–Writer, Critic, Filmmaker and Political Activist
I will always remember our conversation. – in 2004
• • • Dr. SANDER GILMAN – Leading American cultural and literary historian, psychoanalyst and the author and editor of over eighty books
In the tradition of Abraham, the iconoclast… Pier Marton remains one of the most versatile and innovative visual artists dealing with things Jewish… an original, an artist for our age…
• • • ARIBERT MUNZNER – Artist, Professor Emeritus/Former Dean, The Minneapolis College of Art and Design
Pier Marton rakes the virtual screens and the tablets of our hypocrisies with the sharp claws of the avenging angel, piercing the complacent facade of the status quo to reveal the underlying agonies of our conflicting moralities.
• • • Dr. MARGARET OLIN – Senior Research Scholar, Yale Divinity School, Yale University, also Department of the History of Art, Author of Forms of Representation, The Nation Without Art, Touching Photographs, co-editor of Monuments and Memory, Made and Unmade, Co-editor of the journal Images: A Journal of Jewish Art and Visual Culture.
Pier Marton is a highly articulate speaker whose poetic imagination embroiders lines of emotion into historical phenomena. His artistic sensibility opens an original viewpoint on the Holocaust, its use and misuse in contemporary representations. He is a tireless and creative wellspring of ideas.
• • • Dr. STEPHEN FEINSTEIN – Late Founder/Director of the U. of Minnesota/Minneapolis Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies
If any of you need a different speaker on film, I’d recommend Pier Marton, Professor of Film. He gave a great lecture here showing issues connected with how films are made (from the director’s and producer’s perspective), manipulation of narrative and visual text, when Holocaust imagery becomes kitsch and pornographic, when Holocaust images work, when silence is better than what can be said. He shows short clips from many films (not longer than 3 minutes each) in his presentations and uses a lot of European films that many of us are unfamiliar with. One is the APPEL scene from the new film based on Imre Kertesz’s novel “Fateless/Fatelessness” opening soon in the US.
Marton has also made a significant second generation film called “Say I’m a Jew” that received strong reviews and played at the Museum of Modern Art and the Jewish Museum.
Aux confins de Pologne existe une géhenne dont le nom souffle et siffle une affreuse chanson “Auschwitz Auschwitz” aux syllabes sanglantes.
Within the confines of Poland exists a Gehenna whose name blows and whistles a horrific song “Auschwitz Auschwitz” through bloody syllables.
Louis Aragon, Le Musée Grévin, Sept. 1943
TWO YOM HASHOAH TEXTS (below): RESISTANCE
VERSION READ AT THE 2010 ST. LOUIS YOM HASHOAH (Day of the Shoah/Holocaust) COMMEMORATION
I start with a quote by one my father’s favorite writers, the Nobel prize winner, Romain Rolland: There are some dead who are more alive than the living. My name is Pier Marton, I was born and grew up in Paris, five years after the war. My parents’ stories of survival are stories of resistance. The odds and the times were against you two, but between luck, being politicized and smart, you both managed to make it.
Papa: in 1937, you left Budapest, Hungary for Paris, to establish your second studio of the artistic Modern Revue, which was to have offices in Budapest, Paris and New York. You advertised your artwork in Esperanto (the language which means “one who hopes,” created by another Jew, Dr. Zamenhof, an ophtalmologist from Bialystok, a man of great vision). You had designed some stamps with the star symbol for Esperanto. You hoped Esperanto could become the universal language of the future, to eliminate like communism, the injustices and the misunderstandings between people. It needs to be clear, there was no such thing as “The Holocaust,” we spoke of “the war” throughout my childhood. I remember you telling me, I was possibly 8 years old, about the bullets flying by your head as you were waiting for the German convoy that you were to ambush, right from the rooftop of that last building you moved into, to escape arrest. That’s the building I grew up in, where we lived below the roof, in an artist’s studio that had been vacated because it was too close to a munition factory, and in danger of being bombed. I remember being amazed by looking at the sawed off metal bars by the window in the loggia, the small room where we all slept and where one could not stand up because of the low ceiling. If someone was going to arrest you, the escape route was clear: it would take a second to lift off those metal bars. To a casual observer they looked normal, but if one looked very carefully, black paint was hiding the cuts. They remained there throughout the 21 years I spent in that apartment: reminding me of the need to have both vigilance and an escape route. At another time, you told me that the police interrogated you and that they released you. You also spoke of hearing the police going through another apartment you had lived in, Rue Daguerre, as you were walking up the stairs. I remember seeing that photograph of you with the medal you received upon the liberation of Paris. But you did not expand, I had to fill in the many gaps. One cannot ever know the life of another, do we even know our own lives? Many years later, in a book by the famous Spanish writer, Jorge Semprun, strangely enough, there was a character with my name, as Semprun describes a resistance network in my own street. As a curious child, going through the closets I did find a book, the most horrible book I was to ever look at, with piles of mutilated and sawed off bodies, collections of tattoed skin (I let you imagine the rest). It established for me the need for solid documentation of human rights abuse. There, was one of the loudest screams emanating from these pictures, a sound that says in the most urgent manner: Wake up, something terrible was happening, and is continuing to happen. Open your eyes, even if it is difficult and painful. From time to time, we visited that family in Freiburg. You had hidden the father, Henri, a German deserter. But we did not speak about the past, we were in the present. Later, the puzzle came together further when the letters you had mentioned, “FTP-MOI” became those of the notorious network, mocked by the Nazis in the famous Red Poster, characterizing the resistance as Jews, foreigners, and communists – which in your case was completely true. Those 23 who were arrested and executed by the Germans were immortalized by the famous French song, L’Affiche Rouge.
Maman: your trust in people was repeatedly broken. It might have started as a kid on a tramway car in Kiskunfelegyhaza, the small town in Hungary where you grew up, when you had asked a stranger for the time. He had answered: “I don’t have to tell Jews the time.” You did not volunteer much, you did not want to talk about any of this ever. I think you wanted for us to walk straight, trust the world. You did not speak much, but when you spoke, you meant it. You would say: Alles ist halb so wichtig/everything is half as important, which you attributed to Ernst Toller, the left-wing Jewish playwright. Like for most children of survivors, what was not said had the most impact. One could say that we received the war, like our mother’s milk, through our body (the transfer was not through words). Our history books and our lessons: how we all breathed, how we walked, and how we used our brain… and even how we smiled. We became specialists in the topic. Our bodies were the place where we heard the stories. We had to know what to ask to get answers. That’s how you told me that you had to step over so many cadavers when walking on the streets at the liberation of Budapest. For the sake of time, I will ask you to read the stories which are described on the panels outside in the lobby. These are stories I heard for the first time as my mother spoke to a TV crew when we were both in Salt Lake City for the opening of my video installation “JEW.” The message was clear: work for the public good and do not trust the powers that be… a politics of non-politics.
THE PEOPLE WHO DIED AND THOSE THAT SURVIVED WHILE BEING ATTACKED FOR BEING DIFFERENT, THOSE ARE THE RESISTANCE FIGHTERS, THE HEROES. AND THE RESISTANCE, THE RESILIENCE THAT WAS THEIRS, IS NOW OURS.
PREPARED VERSION — READ ONLY DURING REHEARSAL
I will start with a quote by Martin Buber: All actual life is encounter. Only where all means have disintegrated, encounters occur. But first, thank you Marci and the committee members to allow me to say a few words about the Holocaust, my father and my mother. The Holocaust is like a stone in one’s stomach, not to be digested, because it is not digestible, never to be understood – which is not an excuse not to ferociously study it. Yes, once a year, we gather to remember. We say words, sometimes many words… but do we not in fact hide behind our words and our tears? Are we able to be here and there where no one would ever want to go back to, or re-live it in any way? We are here to be truly disturbed (beyond this moment, beyond these walls). SO disturbed that we do everything in our power to say not just “never again,” which has often been used as a blind rally cry, we are here because we know that deep down, we are to be forever disturbed. Violence, pain, injustice, racism which were as legal as the law itself, those things travel too well across time. Unfortunately it is not about the Christians, the swastikas or the Germans… not anymore than it is about the Arabs or the Muslims. Part of our problem is that we are at the mercy of the unfortunate desire to be comfortable, to avoid difficulties. There is after all an entire media industry perfecting our need to distract ourselves… and supported by all kinds of gadgets. We have to content ourselves with small truths as Primo Levi says in an “auto-interview: We must be cautious about delegating to others our judgment and our will. Since it is difficult to distinguish true prophets from false, it is as well to regard all prophets with suspicion. It is better to renounce revealed truths, even if they exalt us by their simplicity and their splendor, or if we find them convenient because we can acquire them gratis. It is better to content oneself with other more modest and less exciting truths, those one acquires painfully, little by little and without shortcuts, with study, discussion and reasoning, those that can be verified and demonstrated. We are doomed to remain unsatisfied, unsatisfied because we can never express what needs to be expressed, what needs to be opposed, what needs to be known. Ceremonies have their place, but they should disturb us… into action. I will not tweet about the Holocaust; my five minutes here can only point to something, that’s all we can ever do. And point to the fact that the boundary between the living and the dead is very small. Yes, we are a small minority, we the living, with our ceremonies and decorum. The dead just lie there, without pomp, silent forever. But we… we speak, and gesticulate. But we will be lost without our humanity, the bridge that has to carry us across time, the living and the dead. We cannot speak anymore only of our people, as much as it is necessary to do so. I notice that that which is for me the most evident of realities has become for them, history./Je remarque ce qui est pour moi la plus évidente des réalités est devenu pour eux de l’histoire. Stefan Zweig. A Romanian artist, Marcel Janco, describing Bucharest in 1941: Animals kill, but do not mutilate the corpses, as the corpses of these innocent victims were mutilated. Tongues were cut out, eyes gouged, fingers and hands severed, the skin flayed while the victim still lived. Bodies were hung on hooks in the abattoir and the word ‘Kosher’ was scrawled on them. Bodies with stab wounds in various places, decapitated trunks, limbs torn out… To live today, comes with a heaviness that feels like some “too much” and yet we need to be here, right there where the past and the future come together into a pregnant present, full of possibilities. The future that happens has to be one somewhat closer to the one we hope for. As the son of Holocaust survivors, complacency and co-optation have been my main enemies. My father survived the obligatory wearing of the Jewish star which he never wore, the round-ups by the French police. He survived an interrogation by the police, even though he made false papers and anti-Nazi flyers and drawings, he hid the German deserter who remained our friends for life. When awaiting on the rooftop of the building I grew up in, he survived the bullets that flew by his ears, but he did not survive a brain hemorrhage at age 55. My mother survived the many attempts to have the Jews register themselves as Jews. She survived in one windowless room with her three sisters and my cousin a baby who was known not to cry at the appropriate times. She survived the German guards by the entrance of the building. She did not swallow the cyanide capsule she carried as she convinced the Hungarian gendarme to let her go as she convinced him that the Russians were approaching. She moved downstairs from a second story building, the night before it was bombed, later she survived the Russian soldiers. A friend and filmmaker in Paris wrote me recently that his family had been victims, “not heroes” like mine. I wrote him back that being killed for being different is heroism too. Resisting is being willing to struggle. The people Yisrael, the people who are willing to wrestle with G-d, that’s what is in that name. Find something good but difficult to do, and explore that. That will test your resistance. I am more than a Jew, I am more than a living person: I am a dead person. The burden of the past has to be carried on our exhausted shoulders, but so should the future, which is at least as heavy as the present is. We never compare; comparisons are not needed. Instead we open our blinders and expand the scope of our concerns, our humanity, so that to our vigilance and our cries never end. A recent NYTimes article mentions the conversations of two soldiers on an aircraft, about to bomb among others a Reuters cameraman whose camera, from above, was mistaken for a gun: Look at those dead bastards, one said. Nice, another responded. Psychologists with good intentions “excuse” them for the distance necessary to kill. The number of dead (in the millions) – Stalin, Hiroshima, Pol Pot, Rwanda, Sudan, Congo, Iraq/Iran War, Iraq, Afghanistan… 2 million dead Vietnamese, 58,000 dead US soldiers. It is clear by now that I like quotes. I will end with three: Before you know what kindness really is – You must lose things… Naomi Shehab Nye (a Palestinian-American writer) Suffering is the unique reason behind consciousness. Dostoïevski but it is Flaubert that provides the appropriate ending: The passionate desire to conclude is one of humanity’s most pernicious and sterile manias.
Below are Jewish Resistance Fighter panels I gathered materials and did research for (with the assistance of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum).
In that context I designed also two large panels for my parents:
– my father, Ervin Marton & my mother, Martha Marton –
All of these panels are now stored with the St. Louis Holocaust Museum and Learning Center.
All Photos (except top picture) © Kristi Foster
One should question everything that gets old and becomes myth-like. Even France after a number of years should change its name, to remain honest, to free itself from the myth "France."
Il faudrait remettre en question tout ce qui viellit et passe au mythe. Même la France au bout d'un certain nombre d'années devrait changer de nom, par honnêteté, pour se dégager du mythe "France."
Henri Michaux Interview 1959
TWO MORE QUOTES
The camps are part of a worldwide museum culture of the Shoah, nowhere more evident than in Germany, where every citizen, not to mention every politician who wants to display his ethical credentials, feels the need to take pictures at these shrines or, even better, have his picture taken.
In our hearts we all know that some aspects of the Shoah have been repeated elsewhere, today and yesterday, and will return in new guise tomorrow; and the camps, too, were only imitations […] of what had occurred the day before yesterday.
A visitor who feels moved, even if it is only the kind of feeling that a haunted house conveys will be proud of these stirrings of humanity. And so the visitor monitors his reactions, examines his emotions, admires his own sensibility, or in other words, turns sentimental… turning away from an ostensible object and towards the subjective observer, that is, towards oneself. It means looking into a mirror instead of reality. — Ruth Klüger, Excerpts from Still Alive: A Holocaust Girlhood Remembered.
Osvaldo Golijov’s “Tekya” performed by David Krakauer