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updated: 6/26/2011 9:22 AM

Skokie museum offers first look at women of Holocaust

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  • Photographs of Jaroslava Praglova after having her head shaved, Auschwitz, Poland, ca 1942, part of the "Women in the Holocaust" exhibit at the Illinois Holocaust Museum in Skokie.

       Photographs of Jaroslava Praglova after having her head shaved, Auschwitz, Poland, ca 1942, part of the "Women in the Holocaust" exhibit at the Illinois Holocaust Museum in Skokie.
    JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

  • Wedding photo from 1936 of Pela Miller and Jasia Starkopf, part of the "Women in the Holocaust" exhibit at the Illinois Holocaust Museum in Skokie.

       Wedding photo from 1936 of Pela Miller and Jasia Starkopf, part of the "Women in the Holocaust" exhibit at the Illinois Holocaust Museum in Skokie.
    JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

  • Summer uniform of Jaroslava Praglova, part of the "Women in the Holocaust" exhibit at the Illinois Holocaust Museum in Skokie.

       Summer uniform of Jaroslava Praglova, part of the "Women in the Holocaust" exhibit at the Illinois Holocaust Museum in Skokie.
    JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

  • Yehudit Shendar, deputy director and senior art curator, museums division of Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, discusses the "Women in the Holocaust" exhibit at the Illinois Holocaust Museum in Skokie.

       Yehudit Shendar, deputy director and senior art curator, museums division of Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, discusses the "Women in the Holocaust" exhibit at the Illinois Holocaust Museum in Skokie.
    JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

  • The "Women in the Holocaust" exhibit at the Illinois Holocaust Museum in Skokie includes artifacts, as well as stories which are projected on wall-mounted screens.

       The "Women in the Holocaust" exhibit at the Illinois Holocaust Museum in Skokie includes artifacts, as well as stories which are projected on wall-mounted screens.
    JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

  • One of several stories projected in the "Women in the Holocaust" exhibit at the Illinois Holocaust Museum in Skokie.

       One of several stories projected in the "Women in the Holocaust" exhibit at the Illinois Holocaust Museum in Skokie.
    JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

  • Arielle Weininger, curator of collections and exhibitions, stands in the "Women in the Holocaust" exhibit room at the Illinois Holocaust Museum in Skokie.

       Arielle Weininger, curator of collections and exhibitions, stands in the "Women in the Holocaust" exhibit room at the Illinois Holocaust Museum in Skokie.
    JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

  • Mandolin-banjo played by Masza Rapoport, part of the "Women in the Holocaust" exhibit at the Illinois Holocaust Museum in Skokie.

       Mandolin-banjo played by Masza Rapoport, part of the "Women in the Holocaust" exhibit at the Illinois Holocaust Museum in Skokie.
    JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

 
 

"Spots of Light: To be a Woman in the Holocaust" opened this week at the Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Skokie.

The exhibit is part of a traveling exhibit from Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.

"The exhibit brings to life the absurd realities of femininity and mothering being practiced in the most horrid of circumstances," said Yehudit Shendar, of Yad Vashem.

The exhibit also focuses on art created by women while they were in the camps. "The Nazis tried to paint Jews as subhuman creatures, and subhuman creatures can't create," Shendar said. "Creating in destruction is not an oxymoron; it is the most beautiful defiance."

Arielle Weininger, curator of collections at the museum, is particularly fond of a picture of Helen Ryba, who survived a 13-week walk to a camp near Leipzig. At the end, she was 80 pounds. A year later, a picture was snapped of her in sassy pose, looking very lush and curvaceous in a bikini at a displaced person's camp.

The exhibit, which opened Friday, includes works of art, a video installation, heirlooms and artifacts that tell the story of how women prevailed during the long, grueling war that killed more than 2 million women.

"Females are females. Whether Jewish, Christian or Muslim, all are strong with a wonderful ability to adapt to circumstances," Shendar said. "Jewish women were systematically robbed of their essential aspects of being feminine. ... (This exhibit) re-creates images of when they were beautiful females."

The exhibit runs through the first week of September.

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