P R O J E C T D I R E C T O R
"It has taken on a life of its own," says John Menszer, Project Director of
the Holocaust Survivors website. What began in 1993 as an idea for a
photography project has become a touring exhibit and website. Mr. Menszer
has traveled around the country photographing and interviewing survivors.
John C. Menszer
"You have to really love this work," he says, "because the emotional
commitment is enormous." "You are entering into a part of people's lives
where there is a reservoir of pain, and they are often reluctant to go
there. You have to support them in their efforts to tell you their stories."
His interest in the Holocaust began at an early age. As a child of 10 years
old Mr. Menszer was particularly shocked by seeing the film Mein Kampf
which showed scenes taken in the concentration camps. Then in 1972, his
mother began to interview survivors for a living history project of Brandeis
University Women's Committee. Her moving descriptions of these interviews
stayed with him.
Mr. Menszer, who has a master's degree in philosophy, went on after an
involvement in his family's real estate business to become an attorney. Yet
he has always devoted time to his interest in photography. It was at a
photography seminar that the idea of making photographs of Holocaust
survivors came to him.
"The problem for the photographer is to capture something that shows that
they were involved in the Holocaust," he says. "My original idea was to
photograph them holding family photos. I was so naive, I did not realize
that most of them lost everything."
He settled on the idea of photographing the survivors in their own homes as
they were telling him their stories. "This is because you have the best
chance of capturing emotion when someone tells you a story for the first
time. If you have them repeat it when you are ready to take their picture
the emotion is never relived with the same intensity."
Mr. Menszer found a sponsor for his project in Jewish Community Center of
New Orleans and obtained financial support from the Louisiana Endowment for
the Humanities, as well as other community sources. Mr. Menszer plans to
continue photographing and interviewing Holocaust survivors. His one
regret is that as the survivors are getting older there is little time left.