Imre Rábai, was just shy of 18 when he was conscripted into forced labor where he worked 12 hours a day under dismal conditions at the Mühldorf camp complex near Dachau. He was one of the few survivors to be liberated from the camp in April, 1945. Only seven months later he completed his final exam for high school and launched a very successful career as a mathematics educator. Many of his students went on to become some of the best mathematicians in the world.
This portrait of Imre was created at a workshop at the Tranzit Art Cafe in Budapest this past September. Imre looks directly at the viewer, a playful smile on his face. There’s far more light than shadow in the portrait. It’s full of hopefulness, light and youth. The students who attended this workshop represent a generation growing up in a country that only really began to acknowledge its Holocaust history in recent years. We are hopeful that this talented, engaged and educated group are an indication of a positive and promising future, much like Imre was when he was their age.
The owner of the Tranzit Art Cafe, Orsolya Egri, spoke our intern Natalie a few months ago and told us that the Memory Project is the perfect way to connect to younger generations. Rather than present students with facts and numbers and require them to empathize, the Memory Project allows students to “take responsibility for their emotions.” She continued: “Children can’t face such a tragedy like 6 million, you can’t cry for 6 million. If you drop just one tear drop for each victim, are you able to shed 6 million tear drops? It’s impossible. It is unfathomable. What’s possible is that you get a photo of a person and in the beginning you don’t even know if she survived, or was killed, or fled, or whatever happened to her, there is just a face-one face of a human being, and you can associate with the suffering of a human being.”