The art full of life the Mazzetti twins, an exhibition at the Shoah Memorial

The tragedy of the Einstein Mazzetti family massacre by the Nazis during WWII remains in the background of the exhibition “After Images,” open at the Milan Shoah Memorial until February 25th. The photographs by Eva Krampen Kosloski, the protagonists of the exhibition, portray the mother and aunt, Paola and Lorenza Mazzetti, in the places of interrupted happiness. Together, after decades, the twins return to the countryside of Rignano, in Tuscany, where they spent their adolescence. They set foot in the lemon grove of the villa Il Focardo and to their surprise, captured by Koloski’s lens, they find their own drawings on the walls. An indelible memory, 70 years later, of the hours spent in the greenhouse on the orders of their beloved uncle, Robert Einstein. “He, cousin of Albert, was a cultured, loving, but inflexible man,” Alessandro Cassin, director of the Primo Levi Center in New York and curator of the exhibition, told Pagine Ebraiche.
“When the two twins were late, he would send them to meditate in the lemon grove. But for them, that space had become a refuge where they could express their art. Art that would protect and save them from the trauma of the massacre carried out by the Nazis on August 3, 1944, with the killing of their aunt and cousins.” This artistic dimension becomes the leitmotif of the exhibition at the Memorial, representing the personal history of the Mazzetti sisters as well as the wound of the Shoah and the war.
In the photographs and documentation on display – from Robert Einstein’s letters to Lorenza and Paola’s paintings – there is the story of the before and after the horror of 1944.
“Through a poetic use of photography,” explained Cassin, “Kosloski has managed to tell the intertwining of childhood and old age in the lives of the twins. A game of mirrors that eludes the linearity of time.” A path to remember the two Mazzetti (Lorenza passed away in 2020, Paola in 2022), but also to gently draw attention to a massacre that has gone unpunished, added Kosloski. “The opportunity to exhibit this project,” reflects the photographer, “is a way to make the story of this family and its massacre known so that the crimes of Nazi fascism are not forgotten.”
In the massacre of August 3 – one day before the liberation of Florence – the Nazis, who had already turned the villa Il Focardo into a local base, shot Cesarina Mazzetti and her daughters Luce and Annamaria. The three had remained in the house despite warnings from partisan commands. Unlike their father, not being Jews, they thought they had nothing to fear. Instead, they were killed, while their cousins Lorenza and Paola, who after their mother death were raised by the Einsteins, unwillingly became witnesses to the horror. Robert Einstein was saved, hiding in the woods. A year after the massacre, he took his own life.
For a long time, this episode remained unknown and until today, Cassin emphasized, “the perpetrators of the massacre are not known.” The exhibition “After Images” brings it back into the spotlight, taking the viewer back to the places where it happened. But it does so with the eyes of those who survived, “putting the emphasis on life,” concludes the curator. “Before us we have Paola and Lorenza Mazzetti: two free, creative women, capable of artistically processing their turmoil and desire to live.”