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VIOLATED! Women in Holocaust and Genocide

VIOLATED! Women in Holocaust and Genocide
A group art exhibition and accompanying catalog with background essays
Ronald Feldman Fine Arts Gallery
SoHo, New York City
Spring 2018


Left to right: Dr. Rochelle G. Saidel, curator Dr. Batya Brutin, artist Ayana Friedman, with one of her works that will be in the exhibition.

Systematic sexual violence in our time has been associated with war and genocide, with Bosnia, Cambodia, Congo, Darfur, Eritrea, Guatemala, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sudan, and the Yazidi of Iraq as some of the most horrific examples. This exhibition artistically portrays sexual violence during an earlier genocide, the Holocaust, as an example of what has happened to women throughout history. In addition to representations of sexual violence during the Holocaust, there are also works about later genocides.

While there is documentation and testimony, sexual violence during the Holocaust has for decades mostly been covered up, denied, or ignored. Artistic representation is one way to raise awareness about this heinous component of the Holocaust, as well as later genocides. Artists include those who experienced the Holocaust, as well as second and third generation descendants of Holocaust survivors. The American and Israeli artists of different generations range from the internationally famous such as Judy Chicago and Boris Lurie to the less well-known, portraying sexual violence during the Holocaust in a variety of media and styles. As examples of the sexual violence that accompanied post-Holocaust genocidal upheavals, the exhibit also includes art about Bosnia, Congo, Eritrea, Guatemala, Rwanda, Sudan, and Nigeria, In these later representations, we see reflections of what happened to women during the Holocaust.

This groundbreaking exhibition grows out of the first book on the subject, Sexual Violence against Jewish Women during the Holocaust (Brandeis University Press/University Press of New England, 2010). Academic advisors and project coordinators are Dr. Rochelle G. Saidel and Dr. Sonja M. Hedgepeth, co-editors of the book, and curator is Dr. Batya Brutin. Rebecca Pristoop is curatorial consultant and Karen Shulman is project coordinator.

Although the earliest memoirs in the 1940s mentioned sexual violence during the Holocaust, afterward the subject seemed to have almost disappeared. However, as proven in the above-mentioned and other books, documentary films, interviews, and archived testimonies, it is a fact that various kinds of sexual violence were prevalent, including rape, forced prostitution, sexual humiliation, sex for survival, and “medical” experiments. These artworks commemorate and reflect upon this violence and serve to inform viewers about this missing part of Holocaust history, while encouraging empathy for and remembrance of these victims’ suffering, as well as other victims of sexual violence.

This trailblazing exhibition includes cutting-edge works on sexual violation by more than twenty American, Israeli, and other artists. They include (in alphabetical order): Ofri Akavia, Judy Chicago, Ayana Friedman, Regina José Galindo, Nechama Golan, Mitch Lewis, Shosh Kormosh, Judith Weinshall Liberman, Boris Lurie, Haim Maor, Naomi Markel, Anat Massad, Mary Mihelic, Dvora Morag, Nezhnie (Muriel Helfman), Racheli Roggel, Hana Shir, Linda Stein, Freddy Tsimba, Yocheved Weinfeld, Gil Yefman, Racheli Yosef, Safet Zec, and Dvora Zelichov. The accompanying catalog and wall text will provide background for the works of art, including artist statements about why they have dealt with this painful subject. An on-line virtual tour of the exhibition is also planned. Educational events will be presented while the exhibition is being shown.

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