The exhibition offers an extraordinarily rare glimpse of life inside the Lodz Ghetto during World War II, through the lens of Polish Jewish photojournalist Henryk Ross (1910–1991). Situated in the heart of Poland, the city of Lodz was occupied by German forces in 1939, becoming the country’s second largest ghetto for Europe’s Jewish population, after Warsaw. Incarcerated in 1940 and put to work as a bureaucratic photographer by the Jewish Administration’s Statistics department, Ross took official photographs for Jewish identification cards, as well as propaganda images that promoted the ghetto’s efficiency.
Unofficially—and at great risk—Ross documented the complex realities of life under Nazi rule, from the relative privileges enjoyed by the elites to the deportation of thousands to death camps at Chelmo and Auschwitz. Hoping to preserve a historical record, Ross buried his negatives in 1944. He returned for them after the war, discovering that more than half of the original 6,000 survived.
Memory Unearthed, organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario, presents more than 200 of Ross’s powerful photographs, comprising a moving and intimate visual record of the Holocaust. The images are accompanied by artifacts, including Ross’s own identity card, ghetto notices and footage from the 1961 trial of Nazi war criminal Adolph Eichmann, where Ross’s photographs were submitted as evidence. An album of contact prints, handcrafted by Ross and shown in its entirety as the centerpiece of the exhibition, serves as a summation of his memories, capturing his personal narrative.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website
Whether or not you go, the companion publication