Caren Garfen

Cut it Out

 Łódź was the textile capital of Eastern Europe and known as ‘Poland’s Manchester’. It had a vibrant Jewish community who contributed significantly to its success. However, after Germany’s invasion in 1939, life changed irreparably for the Jews who, within a few months, were incarcerated in Łódź Ghetto with horrendous living conditions and forced labour. Tens of thousands perished from malnutrition, starvation, disease and deprivation of medical care. Those who were felt to be unfit for work were deported to concentration camps where they were murdered.

Łódź Ghetto became one of the Nazis’ most important and lucrative industrial areas with over 100 factories set up using the skills of Jewish seamstresses, tailors and others involved in the textile industry.

For this artwork, people were selected who had been imprisoned in the ghetto who had previously worked in garment production and were deft with a needle and thread. Knitters, glove makers, corset makers, embroiderers, upper cutters, hat makers, weavers and spinners are included to highlight the scale of textile manufacturing in Łódź.

Brass name plates were used after the artist noticed similar ones on seats in synagogues in Prague and Amsterdam. Those plates remain tragically empty as members of the congregations did not return after World War II.