VERSTECKTE KINDER

2012

"And, in her great fear, she decided to send the child into the forest, where no enemy could follow. She took the child to the edge of the forest, kissed her, and let her go."

Willhelm Grimm in Dear Milli

 

Versteckte Kinder honors the Jewish children who survived the Holocaust in the forests of Europe. The term Versteckte Kinder refers to children who hid in several different ways, not only those who had to fend for themselves in the woods, but also those who gave up their Jewish parents and identities to become members of Christian families and those who were protected architecturally in attics, basements, and the spaces between the walls. My uncle's brother-in-law was one of the children in the woods in Poland, and the relentless hunger of those years has never left him. In his honor, I placed bread in the houses for the opening.

 

The project consists of roughly one hundred "dollhouses" which were constructed by Sallie McCorkle. Each house is marked by a mezuzah which is a ritual indicator of a Jewish home. The houses are hidden along the path of the Waldkuntspfad and the adjoining trails. I do not expect that spectators find all of the houses. Rather, it is my hope that each person glimpse one or two of the houses in the course of walking the trail or during other routine uses of the forest and be reminded of other ways the forest has been used in recent German history.

 

Because the association between the forest and children so often makes a German audience think about fairy tales, a second layer has been added to the project. I have systematically reviewed all the tales collected by the Brothers Grimms and compiled all references to entering the forest. Small red notebooks in each house contain one sentence from a different tale. It is remarkable how often these sentences allegorically evoke the experiences of the hidden children of the Shoah.

 

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©Laurie Beth Clark 2017  |  lbclark@wisc.edu