Turned away by Polish friends and neighbors, the sisters assumed new names and evaded the Gestapo, pretending to be Catholic farm girls. They never saw their family again. After the war ended, the two sisters made their way to a Displaced Persons camp in Germany, where Esther met and married Max Krinitz. In 1949, Esther, Max, and their daughter immigrated to the United States. Esther died at the age of 74, in March 2001, after a long illness.
In 1977, at the age of 50, Esther Nisenthal Krinitz began creating works of fabric art to tell her story of survival during the Holocaust. Trained as a dressmaker but untrained in art, she created a collection of 36 fabric pictures of strong, vivid colors and striking details with a sense of folk-like realism. Meticulously stitched words beneath the pictures provide a narrative.
The combined effect of story and art is powerful. While the pictures are visually pleasing, a closer examination reveals the shocking incongruity between the pastoral surroundings and the human violence, terror and betrayal depicted. Tom Freudenheim, former director of the Berlin Jewish Museum, wrote: "These extraordinary pictures are very moving, but not in least bit sentimental. The compositional concepts are highly sophisticated. I was overwhelmed by what I saw."
Art and Remembrance has created a traveling exhibit of Esther Nisenthal Krinitz's work that is now touring museums in the United States. In the future we hope to bring the exhibit to Poland, Israel and other countries that share the legacy of the Holocaust.
One important goal of the exhibit is to create an educational component that will teach younger generations about the Holocaust and the lessons of courage, tolerance and faith to be learned from Esther's experiences. In addition to the 36 pictures that make up the full collection, Art and Remembrance offers additional educational materials , programs, activities and events. The website will be enhanced to become interactive, to allow young people to share their impressions and express their feelings and thoughts. A catalog will be developed as a supplement to the exhibit, to include full-color reproductions of the pictures and critical essays by scholars. Currently, a 13-minute video featuring excerpts from an extensive interview with Esther Krinitz and her sister Mania, is screened as part of the exhibition. The video was produced and directed by Lawrence Kasdan, the highly acclaimed director of "Body Heat," "The Big Chill," and "The Accidental Tourist." In future, Art and Remembrance hopes to produce a more extensive documentary film.
Complementing the exhibit and other materials, Hyperion Books for Children has published a book of Esther's work, " Memories of Survival ." The book has received widespread critical praise, and was selected by the New York Public Library as one of its 100 Best Books of 2005.