Through the Eye of a Needle
When Esther Nisenthal Krinitz was 15 years old in 1942, the Nazis ordered the Jews in her small Polish village to report to the train station for a journey they knew would take them to their deaths. But Esther was defiant, and with her mother’s blessing, she and her younger sister adopted new identities as Polish Catholic girls and found refuge in a village where people were willing to take them in without papers. Esther and her sister were the only members of their family to survive the Holocaust.
By the time she was 50 and living in Brooklyn, Krinitz was determined to bring to life her childhood experiences in a way that her daughters could see. There was just one problem: she didn’t know how to draw. She asked her daughters for help, but they knew it was their mother’s story to tell.
As a little girl, Krinitz had been an apprentice to a dressmaker and had a great gift for embroidery and sewing. She decided to experiment with a piece of fabric and recreated a picture of her childhood home in Poland. When she finished, Krinitz had found a way to tell her story through the eye of a needle.
Fabric of Survival: The Art of Esther Nisenthal Krinitz, a collection of 36 fabric panels created and hand-stitched by Krinitz, tells the story of her life in Poland during World War II amid Nazi persecution and redemption in the United States. Employing different techniques of texture, from stitching to crocheting to embroidery, Krinitz’s self-taught, quilt-like panels bring her compelling story to life once again in memorable detail.
Thanks to help from FedEx, the exhibit will be on display at the Temple Israel Museum in Memphis from March 16 – May 13, 2016. The unique piece of history received expert care from the FedEx Custom Critical White Glove Services division on its journey From Washington, D.C. to Memphis. The cargo box of the truck maintained a steady temperature in order to ensure the fabric panels were protected and the truck was manned by drivers specially trained to handle precious cargo.
Fabric of Survival was created by Krinitz’s daughters, Bernice Steinhardt and Helene McQuade, through their non-profit, educational and charitable organization, Art & Remembrance (http://artandremembrance.org) whose mission is to use art and personal narrative to recognize individual courage and resilience, and to foster understanding and compassion for those who experience injustice.