A bullet-riddled execution wall at Auschwitz. A dissection table used at the Majdanek death camp. Tallitot and suitcases never claimed by their owners. Train tracks that transported millions of Jews to their deaths. This collection of black-and-white images, hauntingly beautiful and devoid of life, serve as a reminder of what was lost in the Holocaust. They’re on display through Oct. 26 in “Judy Glickman Lauder: Beyond the Shadows” at the Peter Fetterman Gallery in Santa Monica. An expanded exhibit featuring these and additional photographs from Lauder’s book “Beyond the Shadows: The Holocaust and the Danish Exception,” opens at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust (LAMOTH) on Nov. 4.
Lauder has been photographing Holocaust-related subjects for more than 30 years. “My Jewish heritage is very important to me. I’ve always been interested in and photographed a lot of Jewish subject matter,” she told the Journal. Although she is not the daughter of survivors, Lauder said her grandparents lost members of their families who did not emigrate from Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine, including her grandmother’s twin sister.
When she had the opportunity to go to Auschwitz and Birkenau with a United Jewish Appeal group on the way to Israel in 1988, “I knew I had to come back,” she said. “It became a mission, a calling [to photograph] the camps, ghettos, cemeteries, train stations and places that used to be centers of Jewish life and are no longer.”
In 1993, she was asked to go to Denmark and photograph Danish survivors and rescuers for an exhibit to commemorate the exceptional story of a small country that went above and beyond to protect its 7,000 Jews.
Occupied in 1940, Denmark defied Hitler by refusing to turn over Jews for deportation. Three years later, Danes hid their Jewish neighbors and helped smuggle them to Sweden, where they remained for the duration of the war. Of the nearly 500 Jews who were captured and sent to Theresienstadt all but 50 survived. After liberation in 1945, the Danes who took care of Jewish homes and business in their owners’ absence welcomed the survivors back with flags waving.
“If you allow prejudice and stereotypes and hatred to go on it becomes atrocity. It has to be nipped.”
After spending so much time in places of misery and annihilation, going to Denmark and hearing the testimonies of survivors and rescuers “was such a breath of fresh air” Lauder said. “Hate is rising today, all over the place, including America, and we can’t afford to be bystanders. The Danish story is an incredible example that man can make a difference.”
In her book, testimonies from Holocaust scholars Michael Berenbaum and Judith S. Goldstein, recollections by Danish rescuers, Jewish survivors and a foreword by the late Elie Wiesel accompany Lauder’s photographs. She donates proceeds from its sales and photographic prints to LAMOTH and KAVOD Ensuring Dignity for Holocaust Survivors.
Raised in a non-observant Reform Jewish family in Piedmont, Calif., Lauder spent her teens in Los Angeles and attended UCLA. She served as a model for her father, a physician and amateur photographer, and spent hours learning in his darkroom. She got her first SLR camera in her 30s and has been using the medium to tell stories ever since.
“My passion is black and white,” she said. “You’re able to really see the subject matter, the light and the shadow, the gradations of light. Color is almost a distraction because we see in color. With black and white, you’re forced to look closer.” She used infrared film for some of her Holocaust images. “It captures more than the eye can see,” she explained. “It gives it a timelessness and a haunted feeling.”
The mother of four and grandmother of 16, Lauder shares homes in New York, Maine, Sarasota, Fla., and a Century City condo with her husband Leonard Lauder, the retired chairman of Estée Lauder Companies Inc. In 2015, they were married by two of her sons and a daughter-in-law, who are Reform rabbis. She’s a member of her sons’ synagogues and shuls near her homes, including Temple Isaiah. She became bat mitzvah in her 40s, and feels a strong connection to Judaism and Israel, where she has visited many times.
Previously married to shopping center developer Albert Glickman, she had known Lauder and his late wife, Evelyn, for 40 years, socializing on Aspen, Colo., vacations. When Glickman died in 2013, Leonard Lauder gave a eulogy for his friend and succeeded in getting a grove of trees dedicated in his honor on their favorite ski slope. When the widowed pair had lunch together for the first time by themselves, “It just developed from there. It was a love story,” Lauder said. “It was bashert.”
These days, Lauder travels often for speaking engagements at schools, colleges and synagogues. “It’s important to me because this happened and everybody was a bystander. If you allow prejudice and stereotypes and hatred to go on it becomes atrocity. It has to be nipped,” she said. “Human beings have the capacity for hatred, violence and greed but we also have the capability for goodness and making a difference.”
“Judy Glickman Lauder: Beyond the Shadows” is on view at the Peter Fetterman Gallery in Santa Monica through Oct. 26. “Judy Glickman Lauder: Beyond the Shadows: The Holocaust and the Danish Exception” runs Nov. 4-Jan. 5 at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust.