Esther Brunstein died shortly before the end of this project, she was our number one supporter, advocate and inspiration. We know she would have wanted the project closing exhibition and this web record of the project to continue so we offer this in the spirit of her life with love, hope and enthusiasm.
Esther Brunstein: 1928 -2017
Lifelong Bundist. Yiddish speaker, interpreter and teacher. Human Rights activist.
Mother, grandmother, great grandmother
Esther Zylberberg was born in Lodz 1928. Her pre-war childhood was spent immersed in Yiddish culture. Esther’s parents were active members of the Bund, the Polish Jewish Workers Socialist Movement whose values of equality and justice informed Esther throughout her life.
The youngest of three children, Esther managed to stay with her mother as far as Auschwitz where they were separated and her mother killed. At the end of the War, Esther was liberated from Belsen and evacuated to Sweden where she stayed for two years. She came to England and settled in London to be with her brother. Out of her entire extended family only Esther and her brother Perec survived.
Esther became a leading member of the Yiddish Theatre in London where she met her husband, scenic designer, Stanislaw Brunstein. In the 1990’s Esther found her voice again speaking out on human rights issues and campaigning against Holocaust denial. She spoke at huge rallies alongside the great campaigners of the period and opened the Holocaust gallery at the Imperial War Museum, London, alongside the Queen. She shared childhood stories of prewar life in Poland and her experiences of the Holocaust at hundreds of school visits to thousands of school children. She always made the connections from her specific experience to that of other people resisting oppression elsewhere in the world.
Esther Brunstein was one of the key figures in the campaign for a Holocaust Memorial Day. She was a passionate internationalist and human rights activist and spoke at the United Nations on the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
This walking arts project began with her testimony of the death march she endured. Esther closely followed the project led by her daughter Lorna Brunstein and co-artist Richard White, sadly Esther has gone but her spirit and energy lives on.
….. in that spirit of love and internationalism the project exhibition continues to tour:
The line of a Nazi Death March transposed, returned and retraced:
Frome to Bath 2015 on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Belsen
Ovelgonne to Belsen 2016 on the 71st anniversary of a Nazi Death March
Closing Exhibition 26-29 January 2017
44AD Gallery 4 Abbey St, Bath BA1 1NN 10.00-18.00
Richard White and Lorna Brunstein present documentation and new work from two walks hosted by the artists in Germany and England.
Repatriating memories. Making the connections. Generating the resonances.
A performative walk-in-witness on the original death march route from slave labour camp to death camp. In Germany, 71 years later, to the day. February 2016. 10 interventions at the same ‘stations’ as the Somerset walk. The second phase of the project. Generating resonances.
Richard White, Lorna Brunstein and other walkers followed the exact route of the death march into Bergen-Belsen. Seventy-one years after Esther Brunstein and other survivors of the Lodz Ghetto and Auschwitz were marched at gunpoint from the slave labour camp near Hanover to Belsen, their steps were retraced.
The walk followed the same model as the walk in Somerset actively seeking to generate human rights resonances. For second and third generation survivors, liberators, perpetrators and witnesses as well as those more recently exiled and dispossessed by war and prejudice, the walk offered a space for moments of reconnection, reconciliation, reflection and solidarity.
The first phase, in the UK, culminated in an exhibition at 44AD Gallery, Bath in July 2015, the second phase completed with an exhibition in the same gallery, 2 years after the launch of the project, on Holocaust Memorial Day January 2017. 44AD Gallery, Bath BA1 1NN
April 14-15 2015: A 2 day walk in Somerset as close as possible to the transposed line. Where the walk intersects the line, interventions. An intimate performative walk-in-witness exploring human rights and personal resonances on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Belsen. Second and third generation survivors walk with second and third generation liberators
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Belsen was liberated by the British army some of whom came from Somerset, amongst the inmates were survivors of death marches who eventually came to live in England. One of those survivors was Esther Brunstein, Lorna Brunstein’s mother. The route of the death march she survived in February 1945 is the thread of the project. This annotated version of the route shows deaths, possibly burials, along the way.
Honouring Esther was launched as part of the Bristol Holocaust Memorial Day programme. Research continues to generate local resonances from descendants of soldiers who liberated Belsen, a pioneering local human rights activist and Frome resident, Alice Seeley Harris and the discovery that the proposed walk passes close to the unmarked graves of those who died in the Bath Workhouse at Odd Down.
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This project is generously supported in kind by Bath Spa University, The Stephen Clark 1957 Charitable Trust and a range of other backers including the Bristol Hannover Council. The appeal for cash support continues.