Bullets, betrayal and letters: Chronicle of a Jewish Family
The exhibition Bullets, Betrayal and Letters: Chronicle of a Jewish Family opens at the National Holocaust Museum in development on 28 October 2019. It traces a confrontational family history that extends from Poland and Ukraine to the Netherlands. It is the first exhibition in the Netherlands to highlight the mass murder of more than 1.5 million Eastern European Jews. The exhibition runs until 2 February 2020.
The exhibition recounts the extraordinary story of the family of Amsterdam-born filmmaker Willy Lindwer (1946), who has gained recognition for his films about the Holocaust, Israel and the Middle East. He decided to document his family history after uncovering letters from his grandfather, Wolf, and shocking discoveries at the site in Ukraine where his grandmother, Ryfka, was murdered.
Lindwer’s parents came from Galicia, a former border region between Poland and Ukraine. In 1930, fleeing poor living conditions and anti-Semitism, they moved to Amsterdam, where they married. Following the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands in 1942, they went into hiding. Lindwer’s parents and brother, Jonas, survived the war but his grandfather, Wolf, suffered a fatal heart attack while in hiding. One of Lindwer’s aunts and uncles were betrayed and killed. His grandmother, Ryfka, and other family members who remained in Galicia were shot on the edge of a mass grave in Ukraine, which they had been forced to dig themselves.
Bullets and letters
Willy, who was born after the war, received the letters from his grandfather, and a diary from a Jewish survivor who witnessed the betrayal of his uncle and aunt. A rabbi gave him objects found in the mass grave where Ryfka was murdered. These included personal items and bullet shells. Lindwer thus forms the link between three storylines that connect Eastern and Western Europe. The National Holocaust Museum weaves these stories together through documents, films, photographs and objects.
To coincide with the exhibition, Willy Lindwer’s book Wolf en Ryfka. Kroniek van een Joodse familie (Wolf and Ryfka: Chronicle of a Jewish Family) will be published on 27 October by Prometheus.
The exhibition at the National Holocaust Museum runs from 28 October 2019 to 2 February 2020. This is the last exhibition before the renovation of the National Holocaust Museum begins.
Credits: Portrait photos of Wolf and Ryfka, Willy Lindwer family archive