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MEMORY LOSS

View of “Poetry & Performance: The Eastern European Perspective,” 2017–18, Nová Synagóga, Žilina, Slovakia. Center: Vlado Martek, Ponos (Pride), 1976. Photo: Peter Snadík.

IN ŽILINA, a gray industrial city in northwestern Slovakia, stands the Nová Synagóga, a Neolog synagogue designed by the illustrious German architect Peter Behrens (1868–1940). Constructed between 1928 and 1931, the building blends historicism and modernism: The pronounced dome, inscribed with a golden ornamental motif of the Star of David, is reminiscent of the previous generation’s taste for Byzantine-inspired synagogues; its severe rectilinear exterior and relatively monochromatic facade, meanwhile, broadcast the building’s association with the International Style. Able to house 450 men and three hundred women, Nová Synagóga served during its earliest years as public proof of Slovak Jewry’s “modernity,” while also announcing their new political affiliation with the recently created nation-state of Czechoslovakia.

But Nová Synagóga also bears a darker history. On May Day of 1934,

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