Chocolates from Tangier: A Holocaust replacement child’s memoir of art and transformation
By Jana Zimmer
244 pages. Full illustrated in color.
January 2023. Paperback.
$29.95 | 9781954600102
Ebook also available
A second-generation Holocaust survivor weaves together fragments of her family’s history and witness testimony in narrative and collage, using her art as transformation and remembrance.
“Never, never, never ask Daddy about her.” For fifty years, Jana Zimmer obeyed her mother’s directive, until her mother died, leaving behind a trove of family photos and documents, mostly in Czech, with just a few cryptic notes as explanation, for her only child to knit the family’s past together. Late in her own life, Zimmer became a visual artist. The words and images in this book convey her journey to understand her parents and their experiences in the Holocaust, filtered through her own discoveries decades after returning to her birthplace, Prague, and to Terezín, where her family was first interned.
Exhibitions of Zimmer’s artwork in 2007, both in Prague and at the Terezín Ghetto Museum, were mainly inspired by her half-sister, Ritta, who perished in Auschwitz before Zimmer was born, and by her father’s grief over that loss. Ritta’s drawings made in Terezín, now in the Prague Jewish Museum’s collection of children’s artwork from the ghetto, populate Zimmer’s book as well as spare photographs and mementos that reflect Zimmer’s internal world — that of a “Holocaust replacement child.”
In 2015, an exhibition in Germany allowed Zimmer to explore her relationship to her mother’s experiences as survivor of Terezín, Auschwitz, and Mauthausen, and as a Jewish slave laborer in a Nazi aircraft factory in Freiberg, Saxony, in 1944. In both exhibits, and now, in putting together the visual story, their life stories, and her text, Zimmer’s task has been the seemingly impossible — to remember where she had never been, for her parents, who had wanted only to forget, and to find her place between them.
The world attacks us directly, tears us apart through the experience of the most incredible events, and assembles and reassembles us again. Collage is the most appropriate medium to illustrate this reality.
—J. Kolář (Czech, 1914–2002)
PRESS and PRAISE
Chocolates from Tangier is a bold and innovative ensemble piece that comes straight from the heart. With illustrations by way of words, letters, poems and her own impressive images, artist Jana Zimmer brings her parents’ Holocaust story to life in a moving and meaningful way. Beautiful.
—Wendy Holden, author of Born Survivors: Three Young Mothers and Their Extraordinary Story of Courage, Defiance, and Hope
Jana Zimmer interweaves remarkable family stories of loss and survival with her own journey as an artist. Challenged by the need to bear witness to the experiences of her parents, she is admirably self-effacing in her approach to making art. Heartbreakingly poignant memories are enriched by haunting photographs and documents and by the images they have inspired. The writing is eye-opening, profoundly moving and, at times, exhilarating.
—Joe Treasure, author of The Book of Air
A deeply moving memoir and interrogation of Jana Zimmer’s life and the lives of her Holocaust-survivor parents, Chocolates from Tangier explores the themes of identity, exile, and belonging. Incorporating the author’s collage and other artworks, it is a compelling and brutal reminder of the horrors of genocide, and its lingering effects upon subsequent generations.
—Marcia Meier, author of Face: A Memoir
Multi-layered, emotionally compelling and deeply personal, Chocolates from Tangier not only describes in words the histories, objects and insights Zimmer gathered from decades of research—searching and seeking to know, understand and absorb the ways her life has been shaped by the Shoah—but also presents color reproductions of collages, prints and other artwork she made over the past quarter-century, when language proved inadequate in expressing her found truth.
—Jerry Roberts, Newsmakers podcast
A strikingly beautiful book, packed with full-color reproductions of art, as well as photographs of objects and documents. Appropriately, the book is multi-voiced, featuring writing by [Zimmer’s] mother and father, [her] earlier self, and a number of well-chosen quotations.
—David Starkey, Santa Barbara Independent
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jana Zimmer was born in 1946, the only child of two Holocaust survivors from Czechoslovakia, who fled with them as a refugee from the communists to land in Canada days after her second birthday. Zimmer became a collage/mixed media artist after her mother came to live with her in 1995. In her artwork, through text and image, she explores issues of memory, exile, and responsibility. She currently resides in Santa Barbara, California.