Through the Lens of Faith is a series of three-metre-high steel panels lining a path near the Auschwitz Memorial and Museum in Oświęcim.
Libeskind chose the pattern of the vertical panels and the striping on the walkway between them to echo the stripes of the prisoner’s uniforms at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp – an internment and extermination camp operated by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland during world war two.
The panels are mirrored on the reverse to reflect the surroundings and symbolise spiritual freedom, a theme of the installation.
“We can’t understand the millions that were murdered in the Holocaust, but we can understand one person’s story,” said Libeskind.
“This exhibition brings the stories of the survivors into focus, while weaving their intimate accounts into the context of the camp and contemporary life.”
Englander photographed survivors of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and extermination camp over the course of three years.
The 21 portrait subjects are of Jewish, Polish, Roman Catholic and Sinti survivors, who the photographer found through survivor networks associated with the Amud Aish Memorial Museum in Brooklyn, New York.
“The project asks an often thought of question, but never so purposefully explored in visual and discursive terms – ‘How did a largely religious population maintain their sense of identity and culture in a Deathworld, called Auschwitz?'” said Englander.
“This place was structured to disarm any form of dignity and resistance. My work is a visual testament to the absolute endurance of human courage.”
Each person’s photo is displayed on a vertical panel set back from the main display and screened behind a black glass overlay etched with their first-person account of their experience in Auschwitz-Birkenau and how they sustained their faith.
The black glass can be opened on a hinge to reveal the portraits, which were taken in the subjects home and show some of them with their sleeves rolled up to reveal their serial number tattoo.
“Survivors imprisoned in Auschwitz- Birkenau drew on their most profound beliefs systems in the cruelest place on earth,” said Lustiger Thaler of the Amud Aish Memorial Museum, who curated Through the Lens of Faith.
“Daniel Libeskind’s design captures the past, present and future of survivor experiences and memories in conversation with Caryl Englander’s moving portraits.”
Through the Lens of Faith opened on 1 July 2019 in advance of the 75th anniversary of the camp’s liberation in 1945.
Polish-American architect Libeskind founded Studio Libeskind with his wife, Nina, in 1989 after winning the competition to design Jewish Museum Berlin. He has returned to the project several times, building an extension and later an education centre.
In 2017 Studio Libeskind created Canada’s first holocaust memorial, a fractured concrete Star of David in Ottowa.
Photography is by Hufton + Crow.