Journey: Munich to Brockton, 1938–1939
This Jewish prayer shawl recounts the journey of my family from mortal danger in Nazi Germany to safety in Brockton, Massachusetts.
My mother-in-law Helen Marx was a 12-year-old girl in Munich in 1938. The Nazi threat to their livelihood had already driven her father, Dr. Martin Marx, to the United States, where he was earning his license to resume his medical career. By October 1938, the rest of the family needed to flee for their lives.
The bottom end of the prayer shawl, in somber black and gray, marks the start of their journey. Loose threads represent the loose ends of a life abandoned; green and gold dots, the hope of renewed life to come. Barbed wire memorializes close family members who remained in Germany and did not survive.
The family journeyed by rail to Venice, then took a coastal steamer to Palestine. From there, another ship to France and then the S.S. Aquitania brought them to America. Woven into the cloth is a pattern reminiscent of a menorah, a Jewish symbol of perseverance, survival, and light in a time of darkness, values that guided their journey.
By April 1939 the family was reunited in the United States. They settled on Chatham Road in Brockton, just two miles from the Fuller Craft Museum. While a red and gray knotted thread carries the memory of a painful past, the green and gold stripes of the top of the prayer shawl correspond to the new life that the family began there, at journey’s end.
This prayer shawl is made with silk, cotton, wool, and tencel yarns and aluminum wire and is 40" wide x 12" deep x 50" tall. It was exhibited in “Interpreting Change” at the Fuller Museum of Craft, Brockton, Massachusetts, in 2022.