“I buried my negatives in the ground in order that there should be some record of our tragedy.”
On view in the Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art from March 25 to July 30, 2017, “Memory Unearthed” offers an extraordinarily rare glimpse of life inside the Lodz Ghetto during its existence from 1940 to 1944, through the lens of Polish Jewish photojournalist Henryk Ross (1910–1991).
Situated in the heart of Poland, the city of Lodz (pronounced Wudz in Polish; Lodzh in Yiddish; Ludz in English) was occupied by German forces in 1939. The Germans consolidated the area’s Jewish population—more than 160,000 people—into a poor industrial section of the city, sealing it off from the outside world, making the Lodz Ghetto second in Jewish population only to the Warsaw Ghetto in German-occupied Europe.
Henryk Ross was among those confined to the ghetto in 1940 and he was put to work by the Nazi regime as a bureaucratic photographer for the Jewish Administration’s Statistics department. Ross took official photographs for Jewish identification cards, as well as images used as propaganda that promoted the ghetto’s efficiency. Unofficially—and at great risk—Ross documented the brutal realities of life under Nazi rule, culminating in the deportation of thousands to death camps at Chelmno and Auschwitz. Hoping to preserve a historical record, Ross buried his negatives in 1944. He returned for them after Lodz’s liberation, discovering that more than half of the original 6,000 survived.
“Memory Unearthed” presents more than 200 of Ross’s powerful photographs, comprising a moving, intimate visual record of the Holocaust. The images are accompanied by artifacts, including Ross’s own identity card, and ghetto notices. 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.
For More on the Lodz Ghetto and a Digital Archive of Ross’s Photographs
This exhibition was organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario, which houses Henryk Ross’s collection. The AGO created an extensive website with information on the Lodz Ghetto and where you can browse more than 4,000 photographs from the Henryk Ross collection.
On View In
Jeanne and Stokley Towles Gallery (Gallery 261), Catherine and Paul Buttenwieser Gallery (Gallery 262), Ives Family Gallery (Gallery 263), and Lizbeth and George Krupp Gallery (Gallery 264)
In the News
Organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario, in association with the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Lead support from Lisbeth Tarlow and Stephen Kay. With generous support from Marc S. Plonskier and Heni Koenigsberg, and Roberta and Stephen R. Weiner.
Additional support provided by The David Berg Foundation; Dr. John and Bette Cohen; the Rita J. and Stanley H. Kaplan Family Foundation, Inc.; Mary Levin Koch and William Koch; Ronald and Julia Druker; the Highland Street Foundation; Joy and Douglas Kant; Marjie and Robert Kargman; and Brian J. Knez.
Additional support provided by Myra Musicant and Howard Cohen; James and Melinda Rabb; Cameron R. Rahbar and Dori H. Rahbar; the Schlebovitz Family; Candice and Howard Wolk; Xiaohua Zhang and Quan Zhou; and the Andrew and Marina Lewin Family Foundation.
Educational and public programming is generously supported by the Beker Foundation. Additional support provided by the Phillip and Edith Leonian Foundation.
With thanks to our partners Facing History and Ourselves, and the Jewish Arts Collaborative (JArts).