Meadows Museum of Art opens "Lost Stories, Found Images: Portraits of Jews in Wartime Amsterdam" on January 8

Judith Trijtel, 1943 Photo by Annemie Wolff © Monica Kaltenschnee, The Netherlands

SHREVEPORT, LA — The Meadows Museum of Art at Centenary College opens an important and poignant photography exhibit on January 8, 2018. The Lost Stories, Found Images: Portraits of Jews in Wartime Amsterdam by Annemie Wolff exhibit, supported by the College’s Van Thyn lecture series, displays photographs taken by German-born Dutch photographer Annemie Wolff during the German occupation of the Netherlands. These previously lost works, rediscovered by Dutch photo historian Simon Kool, help illuminate an untold story of Jewish life in Amsterdam during the Holocaust. The exhibit runs through March 23, 2018 at the Meadows.

Lost Stories, Found Images combines art, story-telling, and history, portraying the intimate humanity of a devastating period in world history,” says Sean FitzGibbons, director of the Meadows Museum of Art. “The small details within these found photographs, the narrative of how and why they came into existence, and the recently discovered biographies behind the individuals depicted make this exhibit invaluable.”

Annemie Wolff and her husband Helmuth, who was Jewish, fled their hometown of Munich for Amsterdam in 1933. Wolff began taking formal portraits of Amsterdam’s Jews in 1943 during the German occupation of the Netherlands, a time of great danger for both her subjects and herself. Some of Wolff’s photos were taken for false papers to aid Jews trying to escape Holland, while other images were taken as mementos for friends, relatives in concentration camps, or as remembrances of children when their parents went into hiding. Wolff also worked for the Dutch resistance and helped her Jewish neighbors in many ways, but after the war she destroyed most of her photo rolls from this time period and never spoke of her wartime experiences.

In 2008, Dutch photo historian Simon Kool discovered the photo archive of Annemie and Helmuth Wolff in the possession of a family friend, including a box with 100 photo rolls of individual client portraits made from January through October 1943. The archive also contained a receipt book with names and addresses of her clients. Since this discovery, Kool and others at the Annemie and Helmuth Wolff Foundation in Amsterdam have successfully identified and contacted relatives of 325 of the 440 people portrayed in the photographs, and their research continues. Lost Stories, Found Images is an original exhibit created by the Wolff Foundation in partnership with the San Francisco-based Jewish Community Federation and is on loan to the Meadows Museum.

Dr. Lisa Nicoletti, professor of art history and visual studies at Centenary, worked to bring the Wolff photographs to the College during her tenure as co-director of the Meadows Museum.

"The importance of Wolff's courageous, illegal portraits of Jews in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam cannot be overstated. After the Holocaust, we are more likely to see dehumanizing images of European Jewry through the eyes of the perpetrators--as starved, lifeless bodies,” explains Nicoletti. “Wolff's photographs instead connect us to her sitters as spirited, strong, beloved individuals, not as victims, just as Anne Frank's diary reveals resilience and puts a face on the tragedy. A portrait of Hilde Jacobsthal, a close friend of Anne and Margot Frank, is actually in the exhibition. She smiles in her nurse's uniform, refusing to be stigmatized by the required yellow Star of David badge. As only a teenager, Hilde cared for sick and orphaned Jewish children and rescued fellow Jews in that uniform, and thankfully survived, unlike several others captured for the last time by Wolff's camera."

The Lost Stories, Found Images exhibition is supported by Centenary’s Rose and Louis Van Thyn Board of Regents Endowed Lectureship, established in November 2009 to honor Holocaust survivors Rose and Louis Van Thyn. The Van Thyns dedicated themselves to retelling their stories so that people would not forget or repeat the horrors of the Holocaust, and Rose Van Thyn was awarded the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters at Centenary’s 2002 commencement exercises in recognition of her extraordinary community service. The Van Thyn Lectureship provides educational opportunities for Centenary students and members of the surrounding community, with a goal of teaching about the history of the Holocaust, recognizing signs of intolerance, and providing a means for preventing prejudice and hatred.