Live2Tell: New Holocaust remembrance project gives voice to survivors

Photographer Gillian Taub projected the portraits of survivors, along with a message from them, on New York City landmarks

When Rabbi Aliza Erber is asked what her first language is, her response is “mute.” Erber’s statement invokes her harrowing history — as a baby she had her mouth taped shut while hiding from the Nazis in a forest in the Netherlands.  

But Erber, 80, had a voice on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

A portrait of the rabbinic pastor and retired podiatrist’s face was projected onto the base of the Brooklyn Bridge on Saturday night, along with her words, “It was not okay then, it’s not okay now.”

The image of Erber was part of the launch of Live2Tell, a project started as a result of the rise in antisemitism in the U.S. and globally in the wake of the Oct. 7 terrorist attack in Israel. 

Through photography, video and first-person interviews by New York-based photographer Gillian Laub and her team, Live2Tell documented the testimony of the last living Holocaust survivors and projected them onto more than 25 New York City public landmarks including the Williamsburg Bridge, Whitney Museum, West Side Highway and Midtown Ferry Terminal. 

Another projected image read: “‘Every person saved is a whole world,’ said Faye Holand, 83, Holocaust Survivor.”

The initiative, funded through Reboot and Laub’s network, was a one-night-only project as it did not receive permits from the city. 

Laub is an acclaimed photojournalist whose first book, “Testimony,” explored the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through portraits of its victims. Her subsequent major project, “Southern Rites,” centered on racism in a Georgia town and became an HBO documentary.

The 48-year-old told eJewishPhilanthropy on Sunday that the idea to photograph Holocaust survivors, and display their pictures in such a striking way, was a response to increasing antisemitism. “I just felt like this was urgent,” she said, pointing to a recent poll that found 20% of 18-29-year-olds believe the Holocaust is a myth.

Initially approached by the Auschwitz Jewish Center Foundation in the fall, Laub was asked to photograph a group of survivors.

Laub recalled being so moved by the stories she heard throughout the three months of shooting the portraits that she expanded the archive and launched Live2Tell, which is expected to move to Israel later this year. 

As Holocaust survivors age, the project could be one of the last of its kind. 

A report from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (more commonly known as the Claims Conference), released last week, found that 20% of the Holocaust survivors still alive are over 90. Their median age is 86, the youngest being 77 and the oldest being 112. 

“I want to continue to photograph more because I think their stories are so important right now to record and to share,” Laub said, adding that while International Holocaust Remembrance Day was picked as the day to make the project public, “it’s really just the beginning for me.”