Philip's Reliquary

My mother created this work of art as part of a larger sculptural series called Transforming Hate, in which she repurposed pages from Neo-Nazi hate books in order to create reliquaries for members of our family, some of whom were killed in the Holocaust. This particular piece is about Philip Grosser, my great-grandfather, who immigrated to the United States from Slavuta, Russia (modern-day Ukraine) in 1908. The day he left for the US, he said goodbye to his parents without telling them where he was going or that he would not return. It is due to this decision to emigrate that I am alive today. He was an anarchist who went on to become a conscientious objector during World War I, which resulted in his imprisonment in Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary from 1918 to 1921.   Philip’s story has been kept alive through my mother’s art and her interest in our family history. She went to college for American History and wrote her dissertation on him. When she later became a sculptor, her previous knowledge and interest in his story greatly influenced the narratives she wished to tell about hate, discrimination, and family. This, in turn, has deepened my own interest in my family how they made it to this country, or didn’t, for those who perished in the Holocaust. While my mother’s reliquary to my great-grandfather isn’t a family heirloom, it does speak to my family’s continued interest in keeping the memory of my great-grandfather and his immediate family alive.

Place(s): Russia,Ukraine
Year: 1908

– Rebecca Merriman

Relationship:  Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more