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Etched into memory

ELIZABETHTOWN - Stepping into the examination room at the office of Dr. Herbert Savel, one will immediately notice the unique artwork that adorns the walls. Seemingly framed images depict a strange blend of placid family portraits and graphic acts of violence.

At first glance, the images in vivid color appear to be two-dimensional, but a second look reveals their texture and raised relief. The paintings are, in fact, carved from a solid block of wood.

Closer inspection also reveals other clues. Jewish symbols and images of concentration camps reminiscent of Schindler's List indicate that these images originate from the days of Nazi Germany.

What may be most surprising is that all these images covering the walls from ceiling to floor are the work of Savel himself, who still finds time to carve them when he's not practicing as a physician.

While most of Savel's carvings are hanging at his office, several are on display elsewhere. The Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg, Fla. has a permanent exhibit devoted to his work.

Now, with the assistance the museum, Savel has published a book highlighting his work and the people who have inspired it.

Carving virtually every day since April 2002, Savel has amassed a collection of more than 1,070 sculptures, all of which have a similar message.

"I would like to show that the Holocaust was not abstract numbers, but that these were real people," said Savel. "The Holocaust was not the murder of 6 million people, but one, and then one, and then one."

Savel said he never had an interest in wood-working until he spent time with the late Karl Huttig, an Elizabethtown resident who was also Savel's landlord. Huttig had grown up in Germany and become a master carver in the tradition of the world-renowned Oberamagau school there.

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