Wisconsin Exhibit Features Clothes Created From Sketches of Prague Seamstress Killed in the Holocaust
by Shiryn Ghermezian
A Holocaust victim’s fashion designs are featured in a new exhibit in Wisconsin, the local publication The Daily Cardinal reported on Monday.
Eight dresses created from sketches drawn by Hedwig Strnad, a seamstress from Prague who was killed by the Nazis, will be displayed in “Stitching History from the Holocaust,” a traveling exhibit from the Jewish Museum Milwaukee (JMM). The looks — along with 1930s-inspired outfits created by design students from the University of Wisconsin-Madison — will be showcased at the Ruth Davis Design Gallery in Madison until Nov. 13.
“This exhibit has so many themes, but really the primary themes are of fashion design and creativity that was lost and never brought to fruition,” said Molly Dubin, curator for JMM. “It represents the vast talent that was never allowed to be brought to life, along with all the lives that were lost in the Holocaust.”
Kathie Bernstein, former director of the JMM, said the UW-Madison students who designed outfits for the exhibit learned “not only the story of the Holocaust but also of intolerance.” She noted that the display opened in Wisconsin on the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, saying, “How fabulous that on a day like 9/11 we remember both of these through this exhibit.”
Dubin said the curators “hope we would have made Hedy proud with what was created.” He added, “We want viewers to be inspired, and be stewards of memory for stories that may come to life and enable us to get glimpses into other [people’s] lives and talents.”
According to the exhibit’s website, in 1939, Hedwig’s husband, Paul Strnad, sent sketches of his wife’s designs to his cousin in Milwaukee, whom he hoped would provide them with an affidavit to enable them to escape Nazi Germany.
This effort was unsuccessful, and the couple was killed in the Holocaust, but the package of sketches remained in the cousin’s basement. Members of the Strnad family who found them in 1997 donated them to JMM. The museum worked with the Costume Shop of the Milwaukee Repertory to create the outfits and accessories in the exhibit.