Art can help to tell the story of the Holocaust – and help make sure such a horror never happens again, an art collector said this week.
Gilad Hayeem, who supplied many of the exhibits for the Shoah exhibition at the Bermuda Society of Arts Gallery from his personal collection, added the Holocaust had to be remembered to ensure it was never repeated.
He said: “It’s not just a Jewish experience – it was a very multifaceted experience, which is very much reflected here.
“There were Black people, gay people, communists – there were people who were blond haired and blue eyed.
“It reflects what humanity is capable of, and we should be aware of what we are capable of as humans and not repeat that in any scenario or any context.”
Mr Hayeem, a businessman, said he became involved in the art world through his artist wife and found works related to the Holocaust.
He added: “The Holocaust is such a compelling subject and, like a lot of compelling subjects, there are a lot of little threads that you can pull out of it and express the story of what happened.
“We are a Jewish family and I grew up in that time when the Holocaust was just being talked about and the trauma of the Holocaust was starting to be understood.”
Mr Hayeem said the work included in the exhibition – some of which was produced in Nazi concentration camps – showed the Holocaust from the perspective of people who endured it.
He added: “Even though they kept records, life in the camps was not well recorded.
“These are primary documents, this is primary evidence of what happened in the camps.”
Mr Hayeem asked: “Can you imagine what risk they took to paint this?
“They didn’t have access to much material. Most of the material they had was from them creating propaganda for the Nazis.”
The exhibition at the BSoA, in Hamilton City Hall, also includes photographs used during the Nuremberg war crimes trials, along with work by European artists of the period whose work was inspired by stories of the Holocaust.
Mr Hayeem said exhibitions like Shoah helped to remind the public of the savagery mankind is capable of.
He warned: “It takes a number of steps and there are a lot of warning signs, things that you can look for before you get to a place where it’s too late to turn back.
“It’s important for us as a people to recognise the signals and try to prevent ourselves from a place where the state turns against a subset of people.
“Secondly, it’s important to make ourselves aware of what we are capable of and try to understand that when you look at the totality of the holocaust in the Second World War, there were no winners.”
Mr Hayeem said the internet and a more connected world had allowed the spread of hatred, but it had also created more opportunities for empathy.
He added: “What has changed for me in my life is we are more aware of the concept of racism, the concept of anti-Semitism, the concept of judging someone as a negative because of the way they look it is much less acceptable.
“It’s a more connected world. It’s a more empathetic world, and that is what exhibitions like this are trying to do.
“You want to have empathy for others, and you want other people to have empathy for your experience and that seems to be growing in spite of the noise around the edges. I feel mutual empathy is growing.”
· Shoah: Understanding the Holocaust Through Art & Artefacts, organised by the Jewish Community of Bermuda, will be on show at the Bermuda Society of the Art gallery at Hamilton City Hall until April 7.