Artist's Statement

Leslie Starobin

Throughout my career, unraveling the threads of human memory has been central to my creative process. My imagery is inspired by people and places steeped in family lore, enriched by cultural traditions, and central to world history.

My current project, "Looming in the Shadows of Łódź," depicts familial habitats and sites of Nazi genocide as they appear in Poland today, three-quarters of a century after liberation. These scenes are bordered by stories I collected over decades from relatives, chiefly my mother-in-law and her sisters, recalling events they experienced at these locales as youth. In one of their post-war diaries, I also uncovered eye-witness accounts of Auschwitz.

In 1945 when Dorka wrote "The Diary of Dwojra Altman," she was haunted by the atrocities she witnessed in the ghetto and camps and she was mourning the loss of her parents. Now, as a widow, mother, and grandmother, she is the revered elder of the family. Facing her mortality, she aspires to fulfill the Jewish commandment, L'haggid. "And you should tell your children."

On the seventy-fifth anniversary of the family's deportation to Auschwitz-Birkenau from the Łódź Ghetto—the last one in Poland to be 'cleansed' of its Jews by the Nazis, I toured Poland with my husband. In Łódź, we retraced their footsteps as they made their way to the Radegast Train Station. No longer able to hide out from the Nazis in a cemetery, they reported for transport. On August 17, 1944, they rode in cattle cars to an unknown destination.

In an era when Poland revisits its history during World War Two, when surveys reveal that "two-thirds of American millennials don’t know what Auschwitz was" (The Boston Globe), and "Holocaust appropriation, fueled by this global pandemic, is going viral" (CNN), "Looming in the Shadows of Łódź" is timely.

By moving between past and present, between word and image, these large-scale photo-narratives underscore the act of remembrance and engrave this chapter in world history for future generations.