“It’s an amazing thing we all survived,” explains Martin Spett, a local Riverdale resident and renowned artist, as he reflects on his personal experience surviving the Holocaust with his family. Spett has been speaking out and educating others for more than three decades and uses paintings and poetry to further depict the Holocaust tragedy. On Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2010, Spett’s Reflections of the Soul: Oil Paintings of the Holocaust (a series of 23 oil paintings) will go on display for two months at Manhattan College’s O’Malley Library, and the exhibition will open with a reception at 4:30 p.m. in the library’s Alumni Room.
The event is being sponsored by the Manhattan College archives in collaboration with student activities and the Holocaust Resource Center, and will feature photographs, poetry, personal artifacts and oil paintings from Spett’s collection. The poetry of Angela Alaimo O’Donnell, professor at Fordham University, and associate director of their Curran Center for American Catholic Studies, which was inspired by Spett’s paintings, will also be on display. The exhibit is being presented on the fifth floor lobby area of O’Malley Library and continues on the first floor Alumni Room.
“Mr. Spett titled his book Reflections of the Soul, which was also the perfect title for this art exhibit because he has a very reflective and understanding soul,” said Jeff Horn Ph.D., professor and chair of the history department and director of the Holocaust Resource Center at Manhattan College. “No one has given more of his artistic sensibility and personal experience to the study of the Holocaust at Manhattan College.”
Spett’s book, Reflections of the Soul, was published by the Manhattan College Holocaust Resource Center in 2002, and is currently used in elementary, secondary and collegiate classes on the Holocaust. Since the Holocaust Resource Center was founded in 1996, Spett has served as the director of the survivors’ speaker bureau.
Spett, along with his parents and sister survived the Holocaust and immigrated to the United States in 1947. When he first moved, Spett’s father made him promise never to speak of the Holocaust and he kept this promise until 1980. After reading a book by a professor at Northwestern University rejecting the existence of the Holocaust, Spett became determined to inform others from kindergarten to college through painting, poetry and personal testimony.
The art collection’s title, Reflections of the Soul, is revealed in one of Spett’s painting’s Reflections, which depicts a matriarch weeping for her children. This painting is on permanent display in Fordham University’s art collection and will also be at the Manhattan exhibit. Another painting, My Sister and I, was created in 1993 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the deportation of Spett and his sister from the Tarnow ghetto in Poland on May 11, 1943, and is currently in the Yad Vashem Art Archives in Jerusalem, Israel, and a copy will also be on display at O’Malley Library.
Each painting reflects the soul of the artist, the inner psyche of his thoughts and feelings,” said Spett in his book. “Visual art is extremely vital in educating people about the consequences of ignorance, hate, bigotry and intolerance, that is now so prevalent around the world.”