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A tapestry of a decade’s stories

This large tapestry of an idyllic medieval landscape recently came into our collection, bringing with it a complex and tumultuous story. Behind the colourful interlaced stitches is indeed a tapestry of stories of both loss and love.

Tapestry belonging to Holocaust survivor Nathan John Hardy

This tapestry was begun during World War II in former Czechoslovakia by Feige Weiss, the wife of Nathan John Hardy (formerly Herskovic). Nathan survived forced labour camps and numerous concentration camps, but returned home to find that his wife and two children had been murdered in Auschwitz. Upon his return, the only remaining possession of his wife’s that Nathan found was Feige’s half-completed tapestry.

Nathan immigrated to Australia, with the tapestry, in 1947. Here he met Henrietta Strauss, who escaped from Vienna, Austria, in late 1938. Nathan and Henrietta married in April 1948. Once they were married, as a gesture to memorialise her husband’s first wife, Henrietta embarked on the completion of the tapestry.

Most of the left hand side of the tapestry was stitched by Feige; her stitches are neat and refined. Henrietta’s stitches, which are much larger and in different thread, are seen in some of the tree trunks. David Hardy, Nathan and Henrietta’s son, explained that Henrietta commissioned a third person to complete the tapestry, whose handiwork is seen in the grass at the bottom right.

This object, the last material reminder of Feige Herskovic, tells intertwined stories of a decade of hardship and hope as the widowed Nathan Hardy rebuilt his life after the Holocaust.

Image: SJM Collection