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Photo of Esther Krinitz by Sanford Blum

Esther Nisenthal Krinitz

(1927–2001)

Esther Nisenthal Krinitz grew up in the exquisite countryside of rural Poland. Her talents as a seamstress were evident by age eight when she sewed and embroidered a festival folk costume that earned the amazed admiration of the village professional seamstress.

Esther was just twelve years old when Nazis arrived on horseback at her rural homeland and began occupying her village for the next three years. One fateful day in October 1942, Esther, her family, and all the other Jews in their Polish village were suddenly ordered to leave their homes by ten o'clock or be shot and to report immediately to the nearby train station. The night before the train's departure, 15-year old Esther decided she would not go but would instead take her 13-year old sister, Mania, and look for work among Polish farmers. The next morning's black clouds and birds confirmed omens of her fears. Esther and Mania would become the only members of their family to survive the Holocaust.

After being turned away by friends and neighbors too frightened to take the two sisters in, Esther and Mania made their way to another village where they were not known. Pretending to be Polish Catholic farm girls who had been separated from their family, the sisters found work and stayed in the village until liberating Russian troops arrived in 1944. After the war ended, Esther and Mania made their way to a displaced persons camp in Germany where Esther met and married Max Krinitz. She wore the one communal wedding dress shared in turn by brides. In June 1949, Esther, Max and their infant daughter, Bernice, immigrated to the United States.

We Fled Across The Fields, Esther Krinitz, Embroidery on cloth, 1992

Esther Krinitz first began her series of fabric pictures in 1977 at the age of 50. The first two depicted the beauty and happiness of her rural childhood home and were presented as gifts for her two adult daughters, Bernice and Helene. Although trained as a dressmaker and highly skilled in needlework, Esther had no training in art and no conception of herself as an artist. Yet, her first embroidered pictures were so well received by her family and friends and so personally satisfying that she would later create 34 other pieces, unveiling a sequential narrative series of increasing complexity. With the addition of text, Esther's art became an exquisite embroidered testimony to her true story of survival.

After a long illness, Esther Krinitz died in 2001 at the age of 74, beloved by all who knew her.

Links:

To learn more about Esther Krinitz & her work, visit Art & Remembrance: http://artandremembrance.org/