In Search of Amnesia

The images below were taken in Poland & Ukraine between 2017 and 2018. They are part of an on-going research project looking into the Jewish narrative in south east Poland and north west Ukraine, the area formerly known as Galicia. This project is concerned with memory, how we both remember the past and how it is forgotten. Specifically it is concerned with how Jewish memory is held within places that suffered atrocity and immense loss and framed through museums and tourism. 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, an area of the Habsburg Empire of Austria established in 1772, nestled between Poland and The Russian Empire. 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. Poland had for centuries been a haven for Judaism and the centre for European Jewish settlement. Poland and Ukraine’s cities, towns and villages once had sizeable Jewish populations, active in trade, commerce and politics; this was destroyed by anti-Semitic 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, outside of the major cities.

This is an on-going project built up through images taken on site, ideas, conversations and collective memories.

All images (except for the archival shots) were taken in Poland & Ukraine during 2017 and 2018.

© Barry Falk 2017/2018

 

 

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Lancut Chapel, former Jewish Cemetery.

 

 

‘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’ (p17)

 

 

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Birkenau

 

 

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Drainage Ditch, Birkenau

 

 

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Archival image of drainage ditch dug by prisoners. At this site thirty prisoners escaped; as punishment two hundred were sent to their deaths in the gas chamber.

 

 

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Disinfection Units, Birkenau

 

In Search of Amnesia - Decontamination Units (diptych)

 

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Maksymilian Kolbe, waxwork dummy, Polonia Wax Museum, Krakow. Maksymilian Kolbe was a Franciscan Friar who, according to museum description, ‘volunteered to die instead of a stranger in the German death camp Auschwitz on August 14th 1941.’

 

 

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Various rivers and forests, south east Poland. The rivers and forests in south eastern Poland, bordering Ukraine and Belarus, were the location for Operation Reinhardt: Jews from across Europe were brought in to the three main death camps of Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka. If a prisoner escaped the death camp they had to traverse rivers and harsh terrain, to evade manhunts and rely upon an ambivalent local population that might give them food & shelter or more likely turn them in for rewards. The surrounding forests were foreboding and impenetrable terrains. If they met local partisans they were as likely to be turned away, as liabilities, than embraced and saved.​

 

 

 

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Przemysl Old Cemetery

 

 

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Przemysl Old Cemetery

 

 

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Plaszow, edge of Jewish cemetery

 

 

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Ohel for Tzadik Menachem Mendel Morgenstern, Kock Jewish Cemetery

 

 

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True kavanah required the abandonment of bodily sensations, for the body should be treated as a mere ‘bundle of straw’ dragged behind the praying soul.’  - Simon Schama, Belonging

 

 

 

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Judy Josephs and Rose Lipszyc, Survivors of the Lublin Ghetto

 

 

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Polish people greeting the Jews (with home-made Cholah) ~ Belzec Memorial Museum

 

 

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Judy Josephs being interviewed at Belzec Memorial Museum

 

 

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Rose Lipszyc

 

 

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Remuh Cemetery, Memorial wall

 

 

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Krzysztof Banach, Exhibition Curator, Majdanek Museum

 

 

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Emil Majuk, Brama Grodzka Theatre ~ co-founder of the Shtetl Routes Guidebook & On-line Map

 

 

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Jacek Zzwic, Przemysl. Jacek has photographed Jewish life in Lviv & the Jewish cemetery Przemysl

 

 

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Szymon, an artist whose studio is on Lubertowska Street, the edge of the former Jewish Quarter, Lublin. Szymon is working on a project titled ‘Forgetting the Holocaust in order to Remember.’

 

 

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Yard, Lubertowska Street, Lublin – formerly the edge of the Jewish Quarter

 

 

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View towards Krakow

 

 

Kock wooden houses x 4 (b&w)

Wooden houses, Kock, formerly Jewish homes

 

 

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Oscar Schindler’s Desk, Schindler Enamel Factory Museum

 

 

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11 Heltmana Street, formerly the administration block for the Plaszow Concentration Camp (Jan 2017)

 

 

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11 Heltmana Street, formerly the administration block for the Plaszow Concentration Camp (July 2017)

 

 

 

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22 Heltmana Street, Krakow – former home of Amon Goth, camp Commandant, Plaszow Concentration Camp (Jan 2017)

 

 

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22 Heltmana Street, Krakow – former home of Amon Goth, camp Commandant, Plaszow Concentration Camp – (July 2017)

 

 

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22 Heltmana Street, Krakow – former home of Amon Goth, camp Commandant, Plaszow Concentration Camp - fully renovated (Nov 2018)

 

 

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Photographs of the interior of 22 Heltmana Street.

 

 

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Plaszow Concentration Camp. The ruins of the Plaszow Concentration Camp are in fact the former film-set for Steven Spielberg’s film Schindler’s List, a fake construct of a real atrocity site built in the nearby Liban quarry. The Liban Quarry was used as a work site for prisoners but not the location for the camp.

 

 

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In Search of Amnesia - Schindlers List film shots

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 …. Yosefa Loshitzky adds: ‘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.

 

 

 

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Boys hanging out at the Lublin Quarry, in front of film set ruins, preparing to make a film.

 

 

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Plaszow Memorial Park

 

 

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The walk to the Umschlagplatz in Lublin follows the route that the Jews marched out of the ghetto, the last stage before their deportation to the death camps

 

 

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Bilgoraj Wooden Synagogue, a reconstruction of the Great synagogue of Wolna

 

 

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Orla Synagogue

 

 

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Remuh Synagogue, Krakow

 

 

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Adam, Custodian, Remuh Synagogue

 

 

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Izaak Synagogue, Krakow

 

 

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Izaak Synagogue, Kiddush Room

 

 

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Synagogue, Dynow – part of the pilgrimage centre for Hassidic Jews visiting the Ohel of the famous Tzadik, or righteous one, Tzvi Elemenich ben Pesach, creator of the Dynow Jewish dynasty

 

 

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Kupa Synagogue, Krakow

 

 

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Wolf Popper Synagogue, Krakow

 

 

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Synagogue, Kazimierz-Dolny

 

 

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Synagogue, Przemysl

 

 

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Val Vihula Shul, L’viv

 

 

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Val Vihula Shul, interior

 

 

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Jozefow Synagogue

 

 

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Jozefow Synagogue, interior

 

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Synagogue, Sataniv, Ukraine. This is an impressive example of a fortress synagogue, originally built in 1565 to fend off Tatar and Muscovite raiders, renovated by visiting Hassidic Jews

 

 

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The distinctly salmon pink synagogue of Szczebrzeszyn

 

 

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Prayer Hall, Lublin

 

 

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Pawel, custodian of the small prayer room on Lubertowska Street, Lublin

 

 

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Display Case, Tykocin Synagogue

 

 

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Replica Jewish home, Sanok

 

 

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Old Man, Kock – outside the former home of the last of Kock tzadikim: Izrael Lejba, and Abraham Josek Morgenstern, the great-grandchildren of Menachem Mendel

 

 

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Old Lady, Krasnik, formerly a Jewish area

 

 

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Old Man, Lazienna Street, Dynow, formerly a Jewish neighbourhood

 

 

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Old Man, Krasnik, at the market behind the Synagogue

 

 

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Archival image, Kazimierz Dolny

 

 

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Old Synagogue, Chortkiv, Ukraine

 

 

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Old Synagogue, Chortkiv, Ukraine

 

 

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Former Jewish Home, Sataniv, Ukraine

 

 

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Former Yeshiva, L’viv

 

 

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Gymnasia (former Jewish school), Brody, Ukraine

 

 

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Former Beth Midrash (prayer house, Busk, Ukraine. The Beth Midrash occupies the rear of the former Synagogue, now an Evangelical Church.

 

 

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Market, L’viv – formerly the Jewish centery

 

 

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Andriy with blue aeroplane, outside the Maternity Hospital, L’viv – formerly the Jewish hospital

 

 

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Cow-herders, Jewish Cemetery, Busk, Ukraine

 

 

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Pharmacy, Chortkiv, Ukraine, where Marta Goren Vinter’s mother worked. During the Nazi occupation of the city Marta’s mother was allowed to leave the Jewish ghetto to work in the pharmacy. She was thus able to smuggle Marta out & hide her with neighbours. Marta was raised as a Catholic, survived the war and currently lives in Israel

 

 

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Hospital, adjacent to the Old Synagogue, Chortkiv, Ukraine

 

 

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Former Jewish Tailors, now coffee shop, L’viv

 

 

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Valentyna at the Mandragora Restaurant, Lublin. The Mandragora styles itself as an authentic Jewish restaurant serving kosher menu. It offers ‘an authentic trip inside the Jewish culture and tradition.’

 

 

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Bohdan, waiter at the Golden Rose Jewish themed restaurant in Lviv

 

 

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Ariel Restaurant, Krakow

 

 

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Fake Rabbi Tour, L’viv

 

 

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Wooden figurines, Kazimierz, Krakow. These tourist trinkets are on sale in tourist offices, restaurants and gift shops; they are ‘the old bearded stereotypical Jew from the Judenrat.’

 

 

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Matzevah fragment, Oswiecim Jewish Cemetery

 

 

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In Search of Amnbesia ~ tools diptych

Tools from archeological dig at KL Plaszow, Krakow, uncovering the foundations of Amon Goth’s first home, just across from the latrine block and close enough to the barracks to shoot Jews from his balcony!

 

In Search of Amnesia _ Chelsea photographing Matzevah (border)

 

 

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Steven D Reece, founder of the Matzevah Foundation, clearing weeds at the Oswiecim Jewish Cemetery ~ working in partnership with the Staffordshire University, the Auschwitz Jewish Centre and a local scout group.

 

 

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Bullets, collected in the Przemysl area

 

 

In Search of Amnesia _ Letters from Russia x 4

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.

 

 

Various Museums: ’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. 

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

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The Tale of Przemyśl Jews Exhibition at the National Gallery, Przemysl, a permanent exhibition devoted to the history and culture of Przemyśl. To quote: ‘The exhibition aims to bring back a picture of the old, culturally colourful city.’

 

 

© Barry Falk 2017/2018