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Stitching History From the Holocaust: New Remnants

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While working on the original research for Stitching History From the Holocaust, we cherished each small detail about the “talented dressmaker” and her husband Paul. JMM started this process with one letter, eight dress designs, two envelopes, and one photograph. This led us to international archives and connected us with European family members.

Through our research and connections, we located several additional pictures and two more letters written by Paul detailing the challenges of escaping from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia. These pieces offered us new details about the couple, their professional and family lives, and their attempt to escape. This is the backdrop to the small trove of new pieces we recently discovered about the Strnad family.

After Ambassador Andrew Schapiro spoke at Jewish Museum Milwaukee in July 2018, he mentioned that he had a surprise for us. The next morning, he sent an email with four pictures of Hedy Strnad attached with the following message:

“I mentioned that there’s a very useful database maintained by the Terezin Initiative, compiling documents from municipal records (many from the inter-war period) relating to people who ultimately were sent to Terezin and beyond.  In case your researchers have not yet used it to research the Strnads. You might want to pass along this link. There are a few (mundane, but with photos) 1920s and 30s documents there relating to Hedy and Paul.  I attach a few photos of Hedy that I copied from the site.”

For me, these pictures of younger Hedy were anything but mundane. They show a twenty-something Hedy, before she married Paul. Through the next three, we see her develop into the woman we know from our photograph of the couple. Her signature matches the one that we used to create our label for the dresses. Going through this trove of information, we found Paul’s passports and pictures of Hedy’s sister and mother.

We are still combing through this new resource, but we are already working towards including some of these new images in the exhibit and updating the Strnad family tree to include the pictures of Hedy’s family. These additions show the evolution of the exhibit, but also demonstrate that historical research is never done. There will always be more archives to explore and people to connect with, but each small salient connection like these helps expand our understanding of the lived experience.

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Ellie Gettinger
Education Director