An evocative glimpse into Letters of Loss and Refuge

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Exhibition Team: Angela Tuck (designer), Sean O'Sullivan (film), Prof Shirli Gilbert (writer) and Gavin Morris (SAJM Director)

On Wednesday 9 August Letters of Loss and Refuge opened at the South African Jewish Museum.

The exhibition is curated and written by Professor Shirli Gilbert based on her book From Things Lost. The exhibition content is rooted in the discovery of a trove of letters, found in the garage after a fire in the Schwab family home. These letters were written by and to Rudolph Schwab, a Jewish refugee who fled Nazi Germany in 1933 at the age of 21 and arrived in Cape Town in 1936.

Rudolph’s collection of letters provides a rare and unique record of the Jewish experience in Nazi Germany and the impact of the Holocaust on the lives of survivors as they strove to rebuild their lives in foreign lands. The letters are an intimate set of exchanges with family and friends around the world, over almost four decades. The result is a thought-provoking and evocative exhibition, that includes the family narrative, excerpts from the letters, a specially produced film and artefacts.

As Ricci Lyons — Rudolph Schwab’s granddaughter — mentioned in her speech at the opening, it offers: “A glimpse into so many family stories that could or could not be told because of the silence of the topic”.

Letters of Loss and Refuge will be on display at the SAJM until 8 October.

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