Holocaust survivors speak at LCVA

Published 12:51 pm Tuesday, April 18, 2017

By Anna Bultrowicz

Special to The Farmville Herald

Kicking off Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month last Thursday, the Longwood Center for the Visual Arts (LCVA) held a photo exhibition featuring Holocaust survivor portraits and a survivor dinner.

The events included an Holocaust exhibition and presentation by humanitarian photographer Dean Whitbeck, a brief overview of the history of the Holocaust given by Dr. Melissa Kravetz, a speech prepared by Holocaust survivor Dr. Roger Loria and a second surprise speech by survivor Odette Cook.

“The Holocaust is just one example of how hate is visible in people,” said Loria, a member of the board of trustees of the Richmond Holocaust Museum. “In this case, it was the Jews and the Polish, but it’s the same principle (today). We have to combat hate. If you’re black, yellow, whatever — it doesn’t matter. The Holocaust is just a microcosm of what can happen.”

“We often think that the things that are happening way over there don’t impact us, but in fact, the things that were happening in Europe reached into small, rural Virginia towns and took all of these young men. It changed their lives,” said Win Bailey Loria, Roger’s wife. Win’s father was from Orange County and served in World War II. He joined the army after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

“The experience of photographing Holocaust survivors was a reminder that we are all an amalgamation of our personal histories — family, experiences, choices,” said Whitbeck, who began his photography career as a high school teacher in New York and sees his camera as an instrument for social change.

His work does not portray survivors as vengeful or as victims. Instead, Whitbeck chooses to focus on how survivors have thrived.

“Once the project began, I became more drawn to how the participants reacted to the camera — a tool that was used to present victimization, powerlessness and propaganda while they were in concentration camps. For most survivors, this was the first time that they had been photographed formally as survivors of a concentration camp,” said Whitbeck.

Today, Loria said he harbors no anger or hatred in his heart from his experiences with anti-Semitism growing up. He serves as a professor of microbiology, immunology, pathology and emergency medicine at the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond and is the father of two beloved daughters.

“I have not talked about this for 50 years. Only here, in the United States, when they started killing the Vietnamese, and burning the churches of the gay people and killing gay people. I started talking because I knew it was time for me to talk about hate,” said Loria.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” Win said.

The exhibition and dinner were a collaborated effort between the Virginia Holocaust Museum, the Longwood History Department, the LCVA and the College of Graduate & Professional Studies. The next event will be a trip to Richmond for a behind-the-scenes tour of the Virginia Holocaust Museum on April 29.