Monday, March 2, 2020

The Dress That Walked To Freedom

This past Saturday morning, I was out in subzero weather, trying to perfect my newly learned cross-country skiing skills. I was quite lucky as the instructor I had the previous week wasn't able to work with me. The replacement instructor was wonderful!!! What a difference. I felt that he really wanted to see me excel, and I did :) 

During the course of our lesson, we briefly talked about a new documentary that was released over the weekend, Tread. It's about a man who became quite angry, ended up ordering a bulldozer, outfitted it with concrete(making it indestructible), and went on to destroy a number of the businesses in the small mountain town of Granby, Colorado. The cross-country ski instructor told me that his father had been a physician, and believed that there is good in all people. He went on to say that he believed that at the core of human beings is evil. I felt sad hearing that. While yes, so many evil things happen in this world, but it doesn't take much to find the good.

This story has been on the news, and all over the internet, but I thought I would share it as it really touched my heart, and too, just in case you haven't seen the story. 

There's a new exhibit at the Australian War Memorial, and in that exhibit is a dress that exemplifies, I think, the true human spirit, compassion and love. The dress was created for Henryka Shaw so that she would have something to wear once she was able to leave the hospital after the liberation of the Mauthausen concentration camp. All she had was the sheet that covered her. 

Her friends and fellow prisoners would not allow her to walk to freedom without something proper to wear. The dress is believed to have been made from curtains found in one of the Nazi's elite offices. The fabric looks to be a simple cotton, but take note of the exceptional craftsmanship. The plaid is beautifully matched, and the hang of the bias is perfect. This dress was truly a labor of love. You can read more about the dress and the exhibition HERE.

In this short, 2 minute video, you can hear Henryka's daughter talk about the dress, and get a glimpse of the interior construction. 

I am especially excited as I will be attending a lecture that will be given at the Jewish Museum Milwaukee on May 17, 2020. The author of the book, Fashion Metropolis Berlin will be there to talk about the fashion industry in Berlin from 1836-1939. With the outbreak of the war, and the hatred of the Jews, what had once been a thriving industry, in 1933 was taken over and the businesses became "Aryanized." Under Aryan management, the businesses no longer prospered. The owners were robbed, displaced, and murdered.  

If by chance you might like to attend the lecture,you can find all of the info HERE on the Jewish Milwaukee website. I think it will be an especially informative lecture. 

Yes, there is hatred and violence in the world, and we must acknowledge that it is there. I just finished a study of the book of Esther in the Old Testament. It was fascinating! The statement that Esther's cousin, Mordecai made to her is a motto that I have taken to heart, 

"For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?"
Esther 4:14  

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  1. Thank you for sharing the quote from Esther. I believe each of us must conquer evil with good. Sometimes that means speaking as Esther did for her people.

  2. This is a fascinating post. I tried to find any information about this exhibit being shown elsewhere in the U.S. and couldn't find anything. Please give us an update after you see the exhibit (as well as any info you might get about future locations for this exhibit); hopefully you'll be able to take some pictures so we can experience even a little bit of this amazing dress. Thank you for sharing all of this.

  3. That dress illustrates that kindness and generosity of spirit were not killed in the camps -- quite remarkable that her friends would gather together to work on making this dress for her.

  4. That is an amazing story, Rhonda. What a beautifully made dress, and made with so much love.

  5. Thank you for making comment about my mother, Henryka Shaw's dress. It is on display in the Australian War Memorial, Canberra. Mum wrote a book about her life, Standing Tall. It is an honest and raw account. Also should you wish to learn more please listen to her testimony at Shoah. Thank you Naomi

    1. Naomi, Thank you so much for your note. It was truly my pleasure to learn of your mother and showcase her story. I am going to look for your mother's book as I would very much like to read it.