The images below were taken in Poland & Ukraine as part of an ongoing research project looking into the Jewish narrative in south east Poland and north west Ukraine. This project is concerned with memory, how we both remember the past and how it is reinterpreted through the telling of history or buried by collective amnesia. Specifically it is concerned with how Jewish memory is held within places that suffered atrocity and immense loss. The title of this project refers to a state of trauma: amnesia refers to suppressed memories; searching for amnesia is akin to the process of being inexorably drawn to this deep sense of loss whilst at the same time unable to fully revisit the site of original trauma. The images I present occupy this psychological space: the push-pull between the horror and the wish to rectify history.
Though the Holocaust looms large, casting its shadow backwards and forwards, this is not specifically about the Shoah. Within Poland and Ukraine, there is a rich historical narrative of a vibrant Jewish culture that developed within Galicia, Volhynia, Podolia and the Kiev Region. These were formerly part of the Habsburg Empire of Austria, a region nestled between Poland and The Russian Empire, and the Pale of Settlement, a region that stretched from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea. These regions had for centuries been a haven for Judaism and the centre for European Jewish settlement. Poland’s & Ukraine’s cities, towns and villages once held sizeable Jewish populations active in trade, commerce and politics; the shtetls were a product of Jewish trade promoted and taxed by Polish nobility. Within this narrative is the birth of Hassidism, a spiritual reform of the orthodox tradition, and the rise of Haskalah, the Jewish Enlightenment, an intellectual reform of Jewish tradition. This was destroyed during the Second World War by the German policies and aktions designed to deal with the ‘Jewish problem’ and clear the way for the German Volk. Today it is difficult to find traces of these once vibrant communities in the small towns and villages where Jews comprised a large percentage of the population. This project, therefore, seeks to find traces of this narrative through a variety of methods: by seeking remnants of these once vibrant communities in the form of still extant synagogues and beit midrash, often derelict or repurposed; by looking for the physical objects, the relics, stored in museums or sold as tourist trinkets, and by meeting the various custodians of memory: the historians, conservationists, archivists, forensic archeologists, tour guides, artists and academics.
© Barry Falk 2018
Lancut Chapel, former Jewish Cemetery.
‘The language of trauma is the language of this absolute erasure, not imaginable in the past or present but, always, as something missed, and about to return, a possibility of a trauma in the future.’ ~ Cathy Caruth: Literature in the Ashes of History
‘Freud taught us that memory and forgetting are indissolubly linked to each other, that memory is but another form of forgetting, and forgetting a form of hidden memory.’ ~ Andreas Huyssen: Present Pasts: Urban Palimpsests and the Politics of Memory
‘Yet even before Freud, we knew how fragmentary, evasive, unreliable, and even full of fantasy memory is – especially memory that is formed, and deformed, by trauma.’ ~ The Cruel Radiance, Susie Linfield
‘This crucial aspect of the human condition – belonging, knowing your narrative – is damaged for many. And damaging the narrative of a people (cultural genocide) is at the core of a destructive, transgenerational process that has many negative manifestations …. the neurobiological consequences of stripping a community or culture of their language, customs, religious beliefs or child-rearing practices are devastating.’ ~ Bruce D. Perry, M.D, Ph.D.
Drainage Ditch, Birkenau
Disinfection Units, Birkenau
Maksymilian Kolbe, Polonia Waxwork Museum, Krakow. Maksymilian ‘volunteered to die in place of a stranger at the German death camp Auschwitz on 14th August 1941.’ (This is the only reference to the Holocaust in the museum)
Bialowieza Forest, Poland (the possibility & impossibility of escape routes)
Kock, outskirts (the possibility & impossibility of escape routes)
Kock, outskirts (the possibility & impossibility of escape routes)
Petrified Forest, Sobibor area (the possibility & impossibility of escape routes)
Bialowieza Forest, the border of Poland & Belarus (the possibility & impossibility of escape routes)
Forest fascination also relates to German Romanticism and the sagas & fairy tales of Germany. German Romantic painters, such as Casper David Friedrich, bestowed these forests with a mystical, transcendental presence; the Brothers Grimm were inspired by the forests when they wrote their macabre fairy tales. And the forest has always been the place of our darkest fantasies and represented a metaphor for entering the unknown and the eternal: “We have become used to seeing the German nation as eternal. There is no better symbol for us than the forest, which has and always will be eternal.” ~ Hermann Goring
Przemyśl old Jewish Cemetery
Jewish Cemetery, Kazimierz-Dolny
Jewish Cemetery, Kazimierz-Dolny
Ohel, Kock Jewish Cemetery
Kock Jewish Cemetery
Judy Josephs and Rose Lipszyc, Survivors of the Lublin Ghetto
Judy, holocaust survivor, being interviewed as part of Brama Grodzka Archival Programme, Belzec Memorial Museum (former death camp)
Rose, holocaust survivor, Belzec Memorial Museum (former death camp)
Polish family greeting visiting Jews (with home baked cholla), Belzec Memorial Museum (former death camp)
Remuh Cemetery, Commemoration Wall
Krzysztof Banach, Exhibition Curator, Majdanek Museum
Emil Majuk, Brama Grodzka Teatr NN ~ co-founder of the Shtetl Routes Guidebook & On-line Map
Joanna Zetar, Brama Grodzka Teatr NN, Lublin ~ talking about Memory of Place
Szymon, in his studio on Lubertowska Street, the edge of the former Jewish Quarter, Lublin.
Vladimir, Grodzka Gate, Lublin, on the bridge that connects the old town to the fort (former Jewish quarter)
Yard, Lubertowska Street, Lublin, formerly the edge of the Jewish Quarter
View towards Krakow from Plaszow
Wooden houses, Kock - formerly Jewish homes
Oscar Schindler’s Desk, Schindler Enamel Factory Museum
22 Heltmana Street, Krakow – former home of Amon Goth, camp Commandant, Plaszow Concentration Camp (made notorious by Steven Spielberg’s film Schindler’s List)
Photographs of the interior of 22 Heltmana Street (visiting German teachers)
22 Heltmana Street, Krakow, formerly home of Amon Goth, camp Commandant, Plaszow Concentration Camp (January 2017/July 2017/November 2018)
11 Heltmana Street, Krakow, former headquarters of General Government Commanders (Jan 2017)
11 Heltmana Street, Krakow, former headquarters of General Government Commanders (July 2017)
Memorial Site, KL Plaszow, Krakow (former site of the Plaszow Concentration Camp)
Scouts looking for clues in Plaszow Memorial Park
Plaszow Concentration Camp, former film-set for Steven Spielberg’s film Schindler’s List: fake construct of real atrocity site.
Stock images from Steven Spielberg’s film Schindler’s List. ‘Spielberg used black and white, or particular multi-tonal variants of black & white with lots of silvers and greys, not only because he was trying to make his images appear like those seen in newsreels, which are memories for some, and memories of memories for most, but also because he was citing cinema history. The memory recaptured and relived through Schindler’s List is not an authentic re-experienced memory but a cinema memory produced and recycled by the movie industry.’ – Brad Pager: After The Fact
Archival images of German Officers at the Plaszow Concentration Camp, Krakow
Ruin of the film set for Steven Speilberg’s ‘Schindler’s List’ film (mock-up of the concentration camp)
Boys at the Lublin Quarry, in front of film set ruins for Steven Spielberg’s film Schindler’s List (preparing to make a film).
The walk to the Umschlagplatz in Lublin, following the route that the Jews were marched out of the ghetto, the last stage before their deportation to the death camps
Jewish people being led from the Lublin Ghetto to the grounds of the Flugplatz, the old airfield, before being taken to the death camps (archival shot 1942/43)
Bilgoraj Wooden Synagogue, a reconstruction of the Great synagogue of Wolna
Plans for Replica Synagogue, Museum of Folk Architecture, Sanok, Poland
Remuh Synagogue, Krakow
Adam, Remuh Synagogue, Krakow
Izaak Synagogue, Krakow
Kupa Synagogue, Krakow
Val Vihula Shul, L’viv
Val Vihula Shul interior, L’viv (in process of renovation)
Józefów Library, former Synagogue
Fortress Synagogue, Sataniv, Ukraine
Synagogue, Zamosc (now used as an art gallery, theatre and concert hall)
Prayer Hall, Lublin
Pawel, custodian of the small prayer room on Lubertowska Street, Lublin
Tykocin Synagogue and Museum
Old Man, outside the former home of Izrael Lejba, and Abraham Josek Morgenstern, the great-grandchildren of Menachem Mendel
Elderly Lady, Krasnik, formerly Jewish area
Archival image, Kazimierz Dolny, formerly Jewish area
Old Synagogue, Chortkiv, Ukraine (basement with bust of Lenin)
Former Jewish Home, Sataniv, Ukraine
Former Yeshiva, L’viv
Gymnasia (former Jewish school), Brody, Ukraine
Former Beit Midrash (prayer house), Busk, Ukraine.
Market, L’viv, formerly the Jewish cemetery
Andriy, outside the Maternity Hospital, L’viv, formerly the Israelite Jewish Hospital
Cow-herders, Jewish Cemetery, Busk, Ukraine
Pharmacy, Chortkiv, Ukraine (workplace of Marta Goren Vinter’s mother; Marta was smuggled out of the Jewish ghetto, hidden with neighbours, raised as a Catholic, survived the war and currently lives in Israel)
Chortkiv Hospital, Gynecology Room
Former Jewish Tailors, now coffee shop, L’viv
Valentyna at the Mandragora ‘Jewish themed’ Restaurant, Lublin (Valentyna is a non Jewish Ukrainian)
Bohdan, waiter at the ‘Jewish themed’ Golden Rose restaurant, Lviv
Fake Rabbi Tour, L’viv
Ariel Restaurant, Krakow
Wooden figurines of Jewish stereotypes, Kazimierz, Krakow.
Kiosk worker holding Jewish mask, Lesco
Steven D Reece, CEO Matzevah Foundation, clearing weeds at the Oświęcim Jewish Cemetery
Chelsea documenting Matzevah, Oswiecim Cemetery (memory as forensic evidence)
Ohel, Oświęcim Jewish Cemetery.
Jehovah’s Witnesses, outside Jewish Cemetery, Oświęcim
Jacek, Polish photograher, Przemysl. Jacek has photographed Jewish life in Lviv and the local Jewish cemetery in Przemysl
Items found & collected by Jacek in the Jewish cemetery
Scanned letters, Rzeszow State Archive. These letters were written by Russian Jews, to Polish authorities, seeking information both during and after the war regarding the fates of their families. These are samples from 987 scanned documents held at the Archive.
’In many museums, the ritual objects on display, beautiful in themselves, constitute treasures put together in an artificial context, objects “out of function”. In fact, though, the very presence of the objects, on display as out of context museum pieces, provides a powerful subtext, concealing “a hidden history of terror.” – Ruth Ellen Gruber, Virtually Jewish.
Relics of the Jewish World of Galicia, State Museum of Ethnography & Artistic Crafts, Lviv. This collection of Jewish relics was previously stored at the Lviv Jewish Museum; however the Jewish Museum was liquidated by the communists in 1940 and its contents moved to other museums in Lviv, where they were kept hidden from both Nazis and then Communists, both of whom had political agendas to destroy them
© Barry Falk 2018