How did it feel to spend so much time observing a photograph and then making art based on the photo?
The time flew by. I wanted to do justice to this sweet three-year-old boy.
What do you think you will remember about this experience? Why?
This beautiful child, Alexandre, was three years old when he was murdered at Auschwitz. It’s unfathomable. I will remember making this portrait because of the context in which I made it. It was on June 30, 2018, and there were demonstrations across the United States to protest the U.S. government’s unfathomable policy of separating migrant children from their parents when they try to enter the United States illegally. In looking at Alexandre’s face, I thought of the innocent faces of more than 2,300 children who have been forcibly removed
from their parents since May. I’m not comparing what’s happening now to the Holocaust, but it is also a violation of human decency and is an affront to my sense of justice.
Do you think it’s important to understand the experience of your ancestors? Of other people’s ancestors? Why or why not?
Yes, because it helps us understand ourselves and each other. It’s both humbling and inspiring to know what people have gone through in their lives—and it helps to build empathy, which for me is a critical human value.
About Alexandre RIPP
Born February 13, 1939 in Paris, France
Died September 7. 1942 in Auschwitz, Poland
Alexandre was one of 13,152 Jews rounded up and arrested in Paris from July 16 to 17, 1942 and sent to be murdered at Auschwitz. I took this photograph at CERCIL, a research center and museum in Orleans, France. CERCIL is dedicated to the study of the French detention camps and the deportation of Jew in France. There’s a special exhibit dedicated to the 4,000 children of Paris who were rounded up to be murdered during those two days.
After I did the portrait, I went to the Internet to learn more about Alexandre and discovered that there was book published about him in 2017! He had a cousin named Victor who was about Alexandre’s age. Victor’s family got out of Europe when they saw Hitler beginning to gain power. They moved to America where Victor became a historian and a writer. Victor wanted to learn about what had happened to the other side of his family. His book is Hell’s Trace: One Man’s Search for Meaning in the Holocaust Memorials of Europe. The link is to an interview with Victor.
—Laurie Weisman, co-founder of the Memory Project Productions