In February 1949, photographer Paula Horn Kotis sailed on an Israeli boat to Cyprus along with members of the international press to witness some of the last remaining Jewish refugees interned there. Her series of photographs entitled "From Cyprus to Haifa" documents scenes in the Cypriot detention camps, the ship's return to Haifa with freed immigrants, and their arrival in the newborn State of Israel.
These 30 silver-gelatin prints are the subject of Cyprus to Haifa, 1949:
Photographs by Paula Horn Kotis, on exhibit from November 14 - February 25, 2001 at the Museum of Jewish Heritage - A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in Battery Park City. Artworks, documents, and artifacts related to the history of Cyprus will be included in the exhibition.
Kotis' photographs document a desperate hour for world Jewry. Fleeing post-war Europe, survivors of the Holocaust found themselves barred from entering Palestine due to British quotas. Forced to immigrate illegally, they boarded ships and ventured into the Mediterranean unsure of their fate.
The British Navy overtook 39 of these ships, carrying a total of 52,000 passengers, and sent the people to Cyprus. On the Mediterranean island, the British government created a series of detention camps in order to prevent Jewish refugees from another attempt at entering Palestine. These detainees, the vast majority Holocaust survivors, endured deplorable conditions in Cyprus, some for a period of years. Eventually, through the intervention of the Israeli government, the British slowly allowed detainees to leave the camps and head for Palestine.
Kotis captures the drama of these individuals as they journey from detention camp to ship to freedom. In one photo there is a Haifa-bound family of three -- a father, mother and baby -- all looking skyward in the same direction as if they were sharing the same vision. In another there is a small child weighted down with bags and wearing multiple layers of clothing, appearing ready to conquer whatever new adventure presents itself.
The photographs are from the private collection of Michael A. Tye.
Cyprus to Haifa - Paula Horn Kotis
Born to Russian parents and a first-generation American, Paula Horn Kotis received her B.A. in psychology from Hunter College and at the same time worked in a portrait studio owned by her father. From the 1940s to the 1960s, Kotis was an active photographer, capturing many of the most poignant individuals of those decades as well as documenting every-day life in mid-century America. Her portraiture includes American Jews, jazz musician Charlie Parker, and the great James Baldwin. In the late 1960s, Kotis ceased taking photographs in order to start a family with her husband Stanley, and turned her dark room into a nursery for her two sons, Sam and Greg. Kotis currently lives in New York City, and is the grandmother of four.
On Thursday, December 7, the Museum presents two programs that dramatize the Cyprus story. Events are free with Museum admission, which is $7 for adults and $5 for seniors and students.
3:00 - 4:30 p.m. Panel Discussion: Cyprus: Next Stop Freedom
This program will explore the little known story of 52,000 Jewish refugees who were held in detention camps on Cyprus in the aftermath of the Holocaust. Panelists include Martha Herbstman, a Holocaust survivor who was detained as an "illegal" immigrant to Palestine; Nehama Gutmann, a sabra who served in Cyprus as the Chief Public Health Nurse from 1947-49, and Emanuel Gutmann, a veteran of the Jewish brigade who accompanied "illegal" immigrants to Palestine.
6:00 p.m. Film: The Illegals
(56 minutes, b/w, English, Israel, 1948)
The Illegals is a documentary based on the incredible story of "Aliyah Bet," the clandestine immigration of Holocaust survivors to Palestine recorded by author Meyer Levin. Levin accompanied and filmed a group of Holocaust survivors after World War II as the Haganah led them across international borders, over snow-covered mountains and aboard overcrowded ships. He continued to shoot film even as British soldiers boarded the "illegal" Haganah ship, documenting its failure to reach Palestine and the plight of its passengers. The screening is funded by the Bess Myerson Film and Video Collection.
The Museum is located on the waterfront of Battery Park City at 18 First Place in Manhattan. The Museum's core exhibition is organized around three themes: Jewish Life a Century Ago, The War Against the Jews, and Jewish Renewal. With more than 2,000 photographs, 800 artifacts, and 24 original documentary films on display, the Museum uses personal stories and artifacts to present 20th century Jewish history and the Holocaust in a context of universal truths that speak to people of all ages and backgrounds.
Museum hours are Sunday through Wednesday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Friday and the eve of Jewish holidays 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Museum is closed on Saturday and Jewish holidays.
General Museum Information (recorded message): (212) 509-6130
To purchase individual tickets: (212) 945-0039
To purchase group tickets: (212) 968-1800 ext. 214
By subway: 1/9 to South Ferry; N/R to Whitehall Street; 4/5 to Bowling Green; or the A/C/E to World Trade Center. By bus: M1, M6, M9, M10 or M15.
For more information contact Abby R. Spilka or call on 212.968.1800 ext. 152 or view the museum website at http://www.mjhnyc.org/
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