MENDEL GROSSMAN works in his photography lab in the Lodz Ghetto. Many of Grossman’s photos depict the suffering in the ghetto and were found after the war, outliving their creator. (Yad Vashem Photo Archives).
(photo credit: COURTESY: YAD VASHEM PHOTO ARCHIVE)
Photographs and films captured by Germans and Jews during the Holocaust will be displayed at a new exhibition, which was to be launched Wednesday at Yad Vashem Holocaust Remembrance Center in the presence of survivors who have identified themselves as the subjects in the pictures.
The exhibition, titled “Flashes of Memory: Photography during the Holocaust,” will be housed in the Temporary Exhibitions Pavilion of Yad Vashem’s Museum Complex.
The photographs and films were taken by Nazi and Jewish photographers, as well as by members of the Allied forces during liberation.
Some 1,500 photographs and 13 films are on display, as well as original newspaper clippings, albums, diaries, and a number of original cameras from the period.
Also included in the collection are three-dimensional and color photographs taken by professional photographers of the Nazi regime.
In a press release announcing the launch of the exhibition, Yad Vashem stressed that visual documentation is a major component in shaping historical awareness of the Holocaust.
Photography and film have “contributed significantly towards knowledge of the Holocaust, influenced the manner in which it has been analyzed and understood, and affected the way it has been engraved in the collective memory,” Yad Vashem said.
The exhibition focuses on the circumstances of each photograph and the worldview of the photographer behind it, emphasizing the Jewish photographers who captured the viewpoint of the direct victims of the Holocaust.
Yad Vashem notes that for the Nazi regime, photography and film played a crucial role in manipulating and mobilizing the masses towards their ideology, using the mediums to mold their image in the public eye.
Conversely, Jewish photography was often an act of defiance and struggle for survival by those imprisoned in the ghettos or otherwise suffering, and their desire to document the tragedy befalling their people.
The Allied armies documented the camps they liberated, bringing in official photographers and encouraging soldiers to capture the Nazi horrors as evidence for future trials of war crimes and in an effort to use them to re-educate the German population.
“The camera and its manipulative power have tremendous power and far-reaching influence,” said Vivian Uria, the exhibition curator and director of Yad Vashem’s Museums Division. “Although photography pretends to reflect reality as it is, it is in fact an interpretation of it, for elements such as worldview, values and moral perception influence the choice of the photographed object and the manner in which it is presented. The exhibition draws attention to these critical elements, which are not only a form of visual documentation but also pieces of historical evidence.”
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