Preview: Barbara Yelin’s Award Winning ‘Irmina’ Re-Released For Holocaust Memorial Day
by Richard Bruton
Barbara Yelin‘s Irmina is a reflection on war, on the Holocaust, a troubling and intelligent drama released by SelfMadeHero in softback for Holocaust Memorial Day on 27th January 2023.
Originally published in German by Reprodukt in 2015, and in English as a hardback by SelfMadeHero in 2016, Barbara Yelin’s Irmina has been feted with praise and awards for its complex, intelligent, and moving portrayal of life before, during, and after WWII, exploring the choice, conscious or otherwise, to look away when the most terrible events were unfolding.
The book is now being released by SelfMadeHero in paperback to tie in with Holocaust Memorial Day on 27th January 2023.
“In the mid-1930s, Irmina, an ambitious young German, moves to London. At a cocktail party, she meets Howard Green, one of the first black students at Oxford, who, like Irmina, is working towards an independent existence. However, their relationship comes to an abrupt end when Irmina, constrained by the political situation in Hitler’s Germany, is forced to return home. As war approaches and her contact with Howard is broken, it becomes clear to Irmina that prosperity will only be possible through the betrayal of her ideals”.
Irmina’s life in Nazi Germany means she has little choice but to adapt to the terrifying events unfolding is powerfully, sensitively written and beautifully drawn by Yelin. Weaving her family’s history into the wider historical events of Germany’s past, Yelin explores concepts of choice, complicity, how we react to violence and suffering, what it takes to act (or to look away), and how these decisions impact on us all, both in the moment and many years down the line.
Barbara Yelin’s work largely focuses on research-based, historical, and biographical graphic novels, mainly about women. Her first major work was 2010’s Gift (with a script by Peer Meter), published in 2010.
Following this, with support from Goethe-Institute Israel, Yelin chronicled the life of Israeli actress Channa Maron in the 2016 released Vor allem eins: Dir selbst sei treu (This Above All: To Thine Own Self Be True).
In 2017, in collaboration with author Thomas von Steinaecker, she drew The Summer of Her Life, a poetic graphic novel about Gerda, the resident of a retirement home.
Her most recent work is a graphic narrative created in dialogue with Holocaust survivor Emmie Arbel. It was published in 2022 in the acclaimed anthology But I Live: Three Stories of Child Survivors of the Holocaust.
Irmina features in the UK Online Commemoration for Holocaust Memorial Day 2023. Find out more, and register to watch the commemoration: www.hmd.org.uk/ukhmd
“Irmina encourages us all to consider how ordinary people across Europe turned a blind eye to the increasing and insidious persecution of Jewish people – and does so in such an engaging and humane way.” — Olivia Marks-Woldman, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust
“Irmina’s story highlights something that I always bear in mind: people experience the commotions of history first and foremost through their everyday lives, so that personal watersheds… can be of greater biographical significance than major historical events.” — Dr Alexander Korb, Historian
Irmina – written and Drawn by Barbara Yelin, softcover edition released by SelfMadeHero on 27th January 2023. (First published in hardback in 2016.)