— A quest to understand what this number means
By Bonny Feldman
For Herzlia alumnus, Liora Blum (nee Glazer), a second generation Holocaust survivor, the notion of what six million lives actually means has become an ongoing question that she is trying to comprehend.
“I have visited the death camps and stood in a gas chamber, but I could not fathom the number of Jews that were exterminated,” she says. “It’s become my journey: to see what the number 6 000 000 looks like.”
Liora’s search for meaning about the number is clear from a comment by Holocaust survivor, Martin Small, that she displays on her website:
“We are talking about human beings here. Family and friends. We are talking, as well, about an entire culture… They had voices, sang songs, danced, worked hard, laughed, prayed to God, basked in the sun, performed in theatres, worked the farms, ran aimlessly in open fields and worried about the safety and welfare of their children.”
A graphic designer by training, Liora is passionate about using art to find meaning in the unfathomable. “I started my drive to understand more about what a number like this actually entails in December last year, when I began work on the Six Million Project.”
Liora’s project involves painting small rectangles on large pieces of paper — each representing one life taken by the Nazis and their collaborators. Each page contains 60 000 rectangles, and Liora needs to paint 100 pages. She explains, “I am painting each rectangle by hand to individualise and honour every life extinguished – regular people, extraordinary people, tall and short people, skinny and rotund, twins and triplets sometimes too. My vision is to demonstrate the beauty and colour of individual lives and the interwoven fabric of Jewish communities and cultures.”
Each rectangle serves to remind us of one life. Liora is motivated by the desire to remember that every number within the six million was a person, a distinct individual with their own abilities, dreams and hopes for the future. Yet, these lives were cut short in the cruellest way.
The tragedy of the Holocaust has always loomed large in Liora’s life. Both her own family and her husband’s have strong links to the events of the Second World War. “My paternal grandfather, Yenö Glazer, was one of the six million who died at the hands of the Germans. My own father, Sanyi Glazer, came very close to death when he and other family members were lined up on the banks of the Danube River in Budapest to be shot by the Gestapo. Miraculously, they survived because the Russian Army was approaching. But the terror that he endured, coupled with the nightmare of losing so many close family members, haunted him forever.”
This impacted Liora, too, even though she grew up in Cape Town in a later era, seemingly distanced from the horrors that the previous generation faced. Matriculating from Herzlia High in 1988, she went on to study design in Israel. Although she works as a graphic artist, she also produces her own pieces of art, many of them focusing on a Holocaust theme. Her painting, Freedom and Claustrophobia, is housed at Yad Vashem.
Liora has lived outside South Africa for many years, but still treasures the many friends she has from her Herzlia days. She believes that the existence of the State of Israel is crucial to the survival of the Jewish nation. “Jews can live in Israel without being inferior citizens — whether they are religious or secular,” she says. “I am grateful that, after my family’s tragic past, they were able to leave Europe and establish a secure home for our family in Israel.”
• Published in the June 2023 issue – Click here to start reading.
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