The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library will open Stitching History from the Holocaust to the public on Saturday, November 21. This exhibit tells the true story of Hedy (Hedwig) Strnad and her husband Paul through Hedy’s dress designs.
The couple lived in Prague during the German invasion, where Hedy had spent nearly 20 years running a dress establishment. In 1939, Paul wrote a letter to his cousin Alvin Strnad in America, telling him that he and his wife planned to leave Europe as soon as they could. In it, he said he was sending a separate package that held some of his Hedy’s dress designs. He hoped that her talent, along with Alvin’s affidavit as an American citizen, would secure them safe package to the United States.
Hedy’s dress designs made it to America, but the couple did not. They were sent to Theresienstadt, a hybrid concentration camp and ghetto for Jews, and later transported to the Warsaw Ghetto.
It was Burton, the son of the now deceased Alvin, who discovered Alvin’s letter and Hedy’s designs while cleaning his mother’s basement. He gave them to Jewish Museum Milwaukee (JMM), which opened in 2008, where they were prominently displayed. When a visitor suggested staff make the dresses Hedy designed, JMM launched a five-year project involving international archives, historians, seamstresses, and researchers.
The NCSML is honored to host this exhibit, which has been displayed in museums throughout the country. Stitching History from the Holocaust not only serves as a unique memorial for a lost talent, but also a touchstone for discussion about the human cost of the Holocaust and the plight of refugee populations.
The exhibit will be on display in the Smith Gallery through March 21. For more information, visit ncsml.org or call the NCSML at (319) 362-8500.
National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library
The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, preserves, presents, and transcends unique stories of Czech and Slovak history and culture through innovative experiences and active engagement to reach cross-cultural audiences locally, nationally, and internationally. The NCSML is an innovative leader in lifelong learning, community building, and cultural connections. We encourage self-discovery for all ages so that the stories of freedom, identity, family, and community will live on for future generations. For more information, visit ncsml.org or call (319) 362-8500.