Sunday, 20 March 2011

Lodz Ghetto Album

In 1940 the German forces set up a Jewish ghetto in Lodz in Poland.  It was both a sweatshop for the German war effort, producing clothes, and a prison for Jews en route to the concentration camps and death at Auschwitz and Chelmo. The leader, Chaim Rumkowski, complied with the Nazis thinking that it was the best way to ensure survival however almost everyone was eventually killed towards the end of the war.
Henryk Ross was born in Warsaw and became one of the photographers imprisoned in the ghetto. His official role was to document the ghettos wares for promotional purposes and to produce identity cards. He also took a range of other unofficial images to document life in the ghetto. These ranged from ‘happy’ pictures of birthday parties and people posing for the camera together with images of the atrocities he saw, such as people being handed or deported.
When the liquidation of the ghetto began he buried 3000 negatives in a garden. Eventually surviving the holocaust he returned and retrieved them. During his life he only showed the images depicting the horrors of Lodz, however, he did catalogue them all.
This exhibition shows a selection of new prints made from the original negatives. They are often damaged and bear his captions where possible.
I found the pictures harrowing. There is a mixture of happy and sad, horrific and amusing, young and old that is disconcerting.  In some ways the happy photographs are more terrible as they show the lengths people go to to keep a ‘normal’ life  and in the end, the futility of it all. The partially damaged prints exaggerated the atmosphere of terror that must have been part of daily life.
Untitled-2                                                                                 Rescuing the Torah    
                                           Untitled-1                  Mother and Child
                                                                                        Reality for many
                                We should not forget that mans inhumanity to man knows no bounds.

Many and sharp the num'rous ills
Inwoven with our frame!
More pointed still we make ourselves
Regret, remorse, and shame!
And man, whose heav'n-erected face
The smiles of love adorn, -
Man's inhumanity to man
   Makes countless thousands mourn
Robert Burns (1784)

No comments:

Post a Comment