Sweet Noise. Love in Wartime is a book of photographs and words about the Holocaust, a subject difficult to grasp and almost impossible to document. It is also a story of love in a time of war, told in a clear voice using compelling black-and-white photographs and simple, evocative language to build a framework around this pivotal moment in history.
Hirshfeld’s parents, Polish Jews who survived Auschwitz, raised him in a small city in Alabama, where life in the South of the 1950s and 1960s was quiet and, on the surface, mostly idyllic. But lurking under the surface was a remarkable yet tension-filled history that fully revealed itself only after he matured and had a family of his own. He knew the outer perimeters of his parent’s story: the challenges of being Jewish in a place that increasingly alienated them, their individual trajectories as they moved through adulthood and their chance meeting in a Nazi-created ghetto where they fell in love. But it took a trip to Poland with his mother in 1993 (and the discovery in 2005 of hundreds of post-war letters between his parents) to more fully acquaint me with the depths of their tragedies and the exceptional love story that began in 1943, sustaining them through the war.
Though Sweet Noise features events that began seventy-five years ago, the material is eerily timely. As Eastern Europe grapples with this horrific legacy, and many countries are reassessing their responses to mass immigration, those in a position to bear witness need a supportive environment wherein art and language serve to remind the world what can occur when hatred and the concept of ethnic cleansing are given free rein.