For nearly twenty years, I searched for the right way to share my parents’ story of love and perseverance before, during, and after the Holocaust.
I had a wealth of material—my own memories of growing up in a house under the shadow of the camps; photographs I took during my mother’s powrót to Poland and Auschwitz in 1993, and the wrenching stories she shared with me there; and a box of love letters that my parents had written to each other during their separation after the war.
My first imperative was to organize and then work out my relationship to all this material—how to select, how to report, how to disengage, how to cope, and, finally, how to move on. Each new version of the book I attempted provided a step on my way to a deeper sense of clarity, a new place where I could eliminate the unnecessary and find the path that held this story together.
I knew the basics: the anti-Semitism my father experienced when told that he would have to stand in the back of his medical school classroom; the obligatory marriage to the woman who asked her father to pay for her future husband’s education in France; my father’s forced incarceration in the Zawiercie ghetto where he fell deeply in love with another woman, my mother, Frania; their separate transports to Auschwitz and the deaths of my father’s first wife and daughter; the fundamental facts surrounding their reunion after the war; and the powerful effect of a feature in The Saturday Evening Post which finally brought them together permanently in America.
In the end, it was the story told through their letters—told with more accuracy and more depth than I could ever supply—that provided the true essence of the book, giving it shape, substance, and meaning. My parents had learned to love each other across an ocean, and those letters—written in the confines of their hearts—had survived time and distance and revealed an insatiable passion.
About Max Hirshfeld
Max Hirshfeld is recognized as a master at spotting decisive moments while revealing the warmth and humanity of his subjects. He has undertaken several focused projects over the past decade. From 2002-2005, in a series titled One Shot, Hirshfeld captured individual pedestrians in a single frame of film amid the chaos and color of urban settings in major cities across the United States. For his 2008 series, Looking at Looking, he spent over a year wandering through the National Gallery of Art, documenting the jazz-like dance movements of visitors as they viewed master works in the collection. In the spring of 2013, Hirshfeld commenced his Illuminaries series, which highlights key players in the Washington, DC arts and cultural scene. The project serves as an important record of the extraordinary figures contributing to the advancement of Washington arts.
Hirshfeld was born in North Carolina in 1951 to parents who survived Auschwitz. He grew up in Decatur, Alabama and moved to Washington, D.C. to study photography at George Washington University, graduating in 1973. His work has been shown at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Kreeger Museum and is represented by leading galleries in Washington and Boston. He has won silver and bronze awards from the Prix de la Photographie Paris and been featured in Communication Arts and in American Photography. Hirshfeld’s editorial work has been published in The New York Times Magazine, Time, Vanity Fair, and other national publications, and his advertising work has been showcased in campaigns for Amtrak, Canon and IBM, among others. His first book, Sweet Noise: Love in Wartime, was published in 2019. [Official Website]