Stitching History in Reality and Online: A Holocaust Victim's Legacy Lives On

Jan 21, 2015

An exhibit at the Jewish Museum Milwaukee tells a very personal story. 

The Stitching History from the Holocaust exhibit opened last September. It is based on the fashion illustrations Hedy Strnad created in 1938.

Hedy and her husband, Paul, were Czech Jews who were trying to get out of Nazi occupied Europe. Paul’s cousin Alvin lived here in Milwaukee and it was to him the illustrations were sent in support of their U.S. visa application.

Unfortunately, like so many others, the Strnads didn’t make it out. But the illustrations had become part of the permanent collection at the Jewish Museum and last year, thanks to the costume shop at the Milwaukee Rep, the clothes Hedy Strnad had only sketched out became physical reality.

Now, thanks to UW-Milwaukee’s Digital Humanities Lab, the sketches and the story they tell about two people lost in the Holocaust will remain permanently available to the public.

Ellie Gettinger is the education director for the Jewish Museum Milwaukee and Rachel Baum is adjunct assistant professor of Jewish Studies at UW-Milwaukee. They joined Lake Effect's Bonnie North in the studio to share their experiences in putting the exhibit together and examining the artifacts.

"The Holocaust has a big data problem in a way. There's so much information, and the question is how do you humanize that data, how do you bring it down for students so that they really understand not millions of people, but one person...?," Baum says. "And, I think that is something that the digital realm can actually help us to do."

The Stitching History from the Holocaust exhibit remains on view at the Jewish Museum Milwaukee until March 1st, and is now online at UWM’s Digital Humanities Lab.