The Herald Journal Sunday, November 05, 2006

LOGAN, Utah — Listen closely to Liat Ben-Shay. To the words she uses. To the ones she doesn’t.

They’re measured. Weighted. Piercing.

They span nearly six decades of pain, anguish and heartbreak and attach themselves to a piece of cardboard layered on burlap outlined by barbed wire.

You can feel the words. They punch, they scream and they cry.

“I felt that I needed to do something,” is Ben-Shay’s simple explanation for the dozens of collages and photo displays she put together to memorialize the family members she lost at the hands of Adolph Hitler and the Nazis during World War II.

It’s an ode to lost family, but also her effort to educate on one of the most horrific events in modern history — the Holocaust.

“I believe that people need to know about it. Some people are not even sure that it was,” said Ben-Shay. “The younger generations, we force them not to forget.”

Ben-Shay was born in post-World War II Israel to a father who emigrated to the country when it was still called Palestine, in 1935.

Nehemiah came to the nation from Radom, Poland, four years before Hitler invaded and touched off the war.

“He never told me about his circumstances. It was taboo to talk about it,” Ben-Shay said. “My father didn’t talk about my family, and I was very curious about it.”

She assumed what she was told — that her extended family all perished in Birkenau or Auschwitz or Dachau or Bergen-Belsen, or any number of the concentration camps built by the Third Reich to eradicate all those who didn’t fit its “master race.”

But in 1995, she got a phone call from a cousin in Poland. He and a few others from the family escaped to a monastery and were raised by nuns through the war. They were so grateful for their assistance they converted to Catholicism.