It was a love story which flourished and grew despite the horrors of Hitler.
And now the story of how Jewish textile manufacturer Joseph Kagan met and married Margaret Stromas in 1943 is to be brought to life by the couple’s daughter.
The interactive exhibition highlights the couple’s amazing life in wartorn Lithuania and how they survived in a hiding place in the foundry where he was a slave labouurer.
Their escape from Lithuania during the Second World War, and their subsequent success in business in Huddersfield and Calderdale, is recounted through the eyes of their daughter.
‘Out of Darkness’ by Jenny Kagan, tells the story of how her parents came to be among only 500 of the 30,000 Jews of Kaunas to survive the war; how they met and married in the ghetto and how they survived for nine months in a hiding place less than 6’ square.
The exhibition, which opens in Halifax on May 7, leads the audience on a journey through a series of artworks which evoke her parents’ recollections of how they lived through the Holocaust.
Artist and lighting designer Jenny, who has worked alongside producer Cameron Mackintosh on shows including Miss Saigon and Les Miserables, said: “I grew up with bedtime stories about their time in hiding in what they referred to as ‘the box’.
“I consider myself lucky that they spoke often and openly about their experiences; many survivors did not.”
Jenny has recreated two different versions of ‘The Box’ in the exhibition, one based on her mother’s recollections and another on her father’s drawings and notes.
“The difference is important,” she said. “This is a show about memory and experience rather than about hard historical fact.”
Kagan, who was controversially made a life peer by Huddersfield-born Prime Minister Harold Wilson, went on to establish Kagan Textiles in West Yorkshire, famously producing the ‘Gannex’ range of cloth.
He was later disgraced and jailed for fraud.
His wife created a family home in Delamere, Fixby, and also a corporate entertainment venue at Barkisland Hall.
‘Out of Darkness’ retells the story of the Kagans’ survival in an entirely original way, using elements of theatre, written word and interactive installation art
Visitors are led through an atmospheric space to find: a maze of barbed wire, seemingly solid windows, which reveal images when lit, and suitcases which contain magical interiors when opened - all of which reveal different elements of the story, eventually arriving in a poetic starscape.
“I wanted to tell this extraordinary tale and through it to raise questions about the way in which we deal with conflict and trauma, and the human instinct for survival.” said Jenny.
“Sadly, these issues have not been consigned to history. They are vital contemporary concerns in the current climate.”
She added: “My father was a larger than life character who courted controversy throughout his life. His later trials and tribulations are well documented, but this show tells the story of my parents as young people, who survived against all the odds, because of both luck and their ingenuity.
“Both of my parents were very eloquent and wrote beautifully. Their experience of the war affected them deeply, and shaped the people they became.
“They taught me that horrific situations bring out the worst in many people but also the very best in others.”
The exhibition runs until July 10 at The Viaduct, Dean Clough in Halifax.