Holocaust Memorial Day Trust commissioned a special project entitled Moving Portraits. This is a collection of five photographs of genocide survivors, with each individual featured holding an object that holds significance to them.
Joan Salter is a child survivor of the Holocaust. This photograph was taken in her dining room.
As a young child, Joan (then called Fanny Zimetbaum) was rescued by the Red Cross and taken to America. She has no memory of her life before America.
‘When I went to America, I was fostered. My name was changed, my language was changed, my identity was changed. I became an American little girl. And then one day, when I was seven-and-a-half I was told I didn’t actually belong to that family. I was put on a plane, and taken by two people who, as far as I was concerned, were complete strangers.’
As a child, Joan rejected her old identity, and didn’t want to be part of the horror of what her parents had been through. But as an adult she decided to reclaim who she really was. She travelled to the Red Cross in Portugal, and searched through boxes of photographs, before finding this picture she is holding, which shows herself, her sister, and the group she travelled to America with, just before boarding the ship.
‘In a way looking at this photo is like looking at something that belongs to somebody else. But when I found it, in the early 1980s, it was the beginning of my journey to reclaim who I was.
‘Holocaust Memorial Day focuses on individuals, not on the number ‘six million’, and sees them as human beings, and I think that is very important. You see this group of little children, and they all would have gone to concentration camps, and that has meaning.’