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55 Fifth Street South, St, Petersburg Florida 33701
Dr. Rochelle G, Saidel, Curator
The Remember the Women Institute
Geoffrey Simon, Museum President
John Loftus, President Emeritus
Stephen M, Goldman, Museum Director
Lawrence D. Wasser, Executive Director
Julia Terwilliger's artwork and accompanying materials were donated to the Florida Holocaust Museum by her husband, Bert Alan Terwilliger.
Both as a specialist on Ravensbrück concentration camp and as Julia Terwilliger's colleague and personal friend, I am privileged to serve as the curator of the exhibit, Women of Ravensbrück - Portraits of Courage. Creating the exhibit gave me the opportunity not only to present to the public Julia Terwilliger's homage to the brave victims of Ravensbrück, but also to tell the history and background of this relatively unknown camp for women.
I have been involved with this concentration camp for women and its victims since first visiting the site in 1980, The site, at that time was part of the German Democratic Republic, or East Germany, and the cold war made it almost inaccessible to visitors from the United States. Although I began in 1980 to gather material on the camp and its special role as the Nazis major concentration camp for women, it was only well after the fall of the Berlin wall that I was able to see the entire former camp. Until the summer of 1993, some 20,000 Soviet troops were still stationed there. In 1994,1 returned and saw much more of the site than in 1980, and I also learned that the Soviet troops had razed all of the original barracks. I went back to attend the 50th anniversary ceremonies of Ravenbrück's liberation, a friend told me that an artist named Julia Terwilliger would also be there. However, we never met each other.
As a result of this event, I encountered many Jewish survivors, most from Israel and a few from the United States, and I began to research the experiences of Jewish women at the camp for a book and articles. With the help of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's Survivor Registry, I was able to contact and interview other survivors. Julia became close to the leaders of the Dutch survivor committee and began her painting project. Both of us wanted to commemorate and salute the brave victims of Ravensbrück - she with paint, and I, with words.
We began communicating by e-mail, but did not meet until March 1997, when I was invited to Orlando to speak about Ravensbrück in conjunction with an exhibit of Julia's works at the University of Central Florida. We met again later in Tampa, where I was attending the Scholars' Conference on the Holocaust. We talked about working together to memorialize the camp and saw each other at Middle Tennessee State University, where I spoke about the camp and her artwork was shown. Several months afterward I received the heartbreaking news of her sudden and untimely death. In producing this exhibit and combining my texts and choices of background visuals with Julia's mixed media panels and memorial triangle, I feel that we are indeed still working together to instruct people about the special suffering that women faced at Ravenbrück. I thank the Florida Holocaust Museum for making this unique exhibit possible.
The exhibit consists of seventeen panels on the history and background of the camp, an "Artist's Corner" with information about Julia Terwilliger and an installation of "artifacts" conceived by the artist, seven large multiple portrait mixed media panels by the artist, four artifacts from Ravensbrück, fourteen photographs of heroines of the camp, and a memorial structure created by the artist. The panels, artifacts, "artifacts" and related materials were presented as a gift of Bert Alan Terwilliger to the Florida Holocaust Museum in 1999, and the history panels were created by curator Dr. Rochelle G. Saidel and executed by exhibit designer Bob Davidson, under the supervision of Museum Director Stephen Goldman.
Full catalogue is available from the Florida Holocaust Museum, 55 South Fifth Street, St. Petersburg, Florida 33701. Exhibit is available for travel.
Page constructed with permission of the Florida Holocaust Museum, St. Petersburg, Florida.