Individual stories can be the most effective way to form a connection with the enormity of the Holocaust, said Oliver Sears whose exhibition on the subject, The Objects of Love, begins its second run at Dublin Castle.
“When you talk about the murder of 1½ million children, who can understand that? It’s not possible,” he said.
To mark the relaunch, four specially commissioned pieces of writing were presented at Dublin Castle, reflecting on the exhibition which tells the story, through mementoes, of one Jewish family before and after the second World War.
The works by Amanda Bell, Sinéad Gleeson, Rosaleen McDonagh and Melatu Uche Okorie were read out during the event moderated by Booker Prize-winning author Roddy Doyle.
“I am extremely moved by the effort they have put in, the fresh thinking,” said Mr Sears, who explained the importance of bringing the exhibition to an Irish audience, a people not “culturally connected” to the horrors of the Nazi extermination.
The Objects of Love originally ran for one month and received some 5,000 visitors. Its relaunch at the State Apartment Galleries will continue until January before it moves to New York.
It approaches an overwhelming subject through the experiences of a small number of people, including Mr Sears’s mother Monika and grandmother Kryszia, a curated collection of precious family objects, photographs and documents that includes a concert ticket, a monogrammed powder compact and a ring.
“In his story of one Jewish family before, during and after the Holocaust, and in his personal engagement with the past,” a piece on the exhibition in The Irish Times noted last January, “Oliver transforms statistics into a defiant expression of love, giving dignity to those who would otherwise be forgotten.”
Mr Sears, who founded Holocaust Awareness Ireland, said the exhibition had had the effect of lifting the burden of survival guilt from his mother, who is now 83.
In 1990, they visited Auschwitz together. In that death camp, and at Treblinka, his grandfather Schloyme lost his parents and brother, as well as 20 other relatives.
“I don’t use words like ‘pride’ or ‘delighted’; I use words like ‘relief’,” Mr Sears said of his exhibition, having secured a second run in Dublin. “It’s of enormous significance that the OPW [Office of Public Works] are supporting this exhibition and that it has the imprimatur of the State.
“It raises the significance of this history and, from a personal point of view, it’s extremely moving. I have lived here since the mid-80s and I very much want to contribute to this society and this is one way I can do that.”