In Search of Amnesia

The images below were taken in Poland in 2017. They are part of an on-going research project looking into the Jewish narrative in Poland and Ukraine, the area formerly known as Galicia. This project is also concerned with memory, how we both remember and forget the past, particularly when it relates to atrocity and immense loss. Though the Holocaust looms large, casting its shadow backwards and forwards, this is not specifically about the Shoah. My main concern is how memory is held within society and passed down through generations. However, I am also interested in how memories of trauma are inevitable buried by collective amnesia: Poland and Ukraine’s cities, towns and villages once had sizeable Jewish populations that were destroyed by anti-Semitic German policies 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 or in the few maintained Heritage & Atrocity Memorial Sites.

This is the first part an on-going project built up through photographs taken on site, archival images, ideas and conversations.

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

© Barry Falk 2017

 

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‘When we look at images of mass graves, a meeting between memory and forgetfulness takes place, so that we see earth, wounds, death, we are overwhelmed by shock and bewilderment, but at the same time the bodies (sic) are buried, the traces are hidden and forgetfulness has begun.’    – Ludmila Birsan writing about Marianne Hirsch: ‘Hidden Traces, Family, Photography and the Holocaust.’

 

‘The central question for Lanzmann concerns what happened at the site. The site is the trigger of memory …. It is not that the landscape itself holds the memory but that memory itself is a landscape.’   – Brad Pager: ‘After the Fact’ (p139) 

 

‘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)

 

 

 

 

The Memory of Absence

~ Birkenau / Auschwitz II

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Disinfection Units, Processing Centre, Sauna Block ~ Auschwitz II Birkenau

 

In Search of Amnesia - Decontamination Units (diptych)

 

 

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Drainage Ditch, Birkenau

 

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Archival image of political prisoners working on the drainage ditch at Birkenau. At this spot, on June 10th 1942, there was an attempted mass escape; seven prisoners managed to escape. As a consequence, though, the SS shot twenty prisoners and sent three hundred more to their deaths in the gas chambers. (This image forms part of the Auschwitz II Birkenau Museum, Oswiecim).

 

 

 

 

Various Landscapes ~ Possible & Impossible Escape Routes

Rivers and forests in south eastern Poland. This area, bordering Ukraine and Belarus, was the location for Operation Reinhard: Jews from across Europe were brought to the three main death camps of Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka.  The few prisoners that escaped the death camps had to traverse rivers and harsh terrain, to evade manhunts and rely upon an ambivalent local population that might give them food or might turn them in. The surrounding forests were often foreboding and impenetrable terrains.

Forest fascination also relates to German Romanticism and the sagas & fairy tales of Germany. The Nazis were likewise obsessed with the forest, mythologising it as a symbol of the ‘Eternal Nation.’ Hermann Goring: “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.”

 

~ Rivers

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~ Forests

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The Concept of Remembrance in Places of Desecration

Although there are many conservation & Heritage groups seeking ways to preserve and re-establish the Jewish Cemeteries in Poland there are still many Jewish cemeteries that are in a derelict state after the desecration of the War. These bare bones, with their few Matzevahs, were once sizeable cemeteries indicating large local Jewish populations.

 

Przemyśl New Jewish Cemetery ~ despite it’s neglected state the Cemetery retains it’s Matzevahs.

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Przemyśl Old Jewish Cemetry ~ like many Jewish Cemeteries in South Eastern Poland there are no visible remains of graves, however the Cemetery arch still remains, inviting entry to an empty site.

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Kock Jewish Cemetry

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Kazimierz Dolny Jewish Cemetry

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Jozefow Jewish Cemetry

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The Concept of Remembrance in Places of Decimation

Treblinka Memorial Site ~ between July 1942 and August 1943 it is estimated that 900,000 Jewish people were put to death at Treblinka.

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Plaszow Memorial Site, Krakow. The Jewish graveyard, with view towards Krakow city, is on the edge of where the former Paszow Concentration Camp used to be.

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In Search of Amnesia - Various Chimneys

 

 

 

 

 

 

Various Structures ~ Abandoned & Uncanny

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Memory Framed by Narrative

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11 Heltmana Street, bordering the former Plaszow Concentration Camp; Headquarters for Camp Commanders (photo taken January 2017)

 

415A2340-1 11 Heltmana Street, bordering the former Plaszow Concentration Camp; Headquarters for Camp Commanders (photo taken July 2017)

 

 

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22 Heltmana Street, formerly Amon Göth’s home, Commandant for Plaszow Concentration Camp (photo taken January 2017)

 

 

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22 Heltmana Street, formerly Amon Göth’s home, Commandant for Plaszow Concentration Camp (photo taken July 2017) 

 

 

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German Tour Party looking at Images of Amon Göth’s House outside 22 Heltmana Street

 

Plaszow Concentration Camp ~ the ruined camp is 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 quarry.

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In Search of Amnesia - Schindlers List film shots

Stills from Steven Spielberg’s Film ‘Schindler’s List’ ~ Amon Goth, played by Ranulph Fiennes, is shown shooting Jewish captives from the balcony of his home; however his home, located on 22 Heltmana Street, did not overlook the concentration camp.

In Search of Amnesia - Archival Images German SS

Archival Images on display at Oscar Schindler’s Factory Museum, Krakow

 

 

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Oscar Schindler’s Desk, Oscar Schindler Factory Museum ~ with original paraphernalia

 

 

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Display Case, Tykocin Synagogue ~ now a museum

 

 

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Cabinet, Chevra Nosim Synagogue, Lublin

 

 

 

 

 

 

Synagogues ~ Sacred, Abandoned, Replica & Re-imagined

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Orla Synagogue ~ abandoned

 

 

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Bilgoraj Synagogue ~ a replica of the Great Wooden Synagogue in Wolpa, Belarus. There once were 241 wooden synagogues in Poland; the Germans burnt down every single one.

 

 

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Szczebrzeszyn Synagogue ~ the interior is used for display and performances

 

 

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Josejow Synagogue ~ now a Library

 

 

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Leczna Synagogue ~ abandoned

 

 

415A2560-1 Remuh Synagogue, Krakow ~ still in use for religious services

 

 

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Chevra Nosim Synagogue, Lublin ~ despite the very small congregation the Synagogue is still in use

 

 

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Kazmierz Dolny Synagogue ~ the Synagogue is now a Museum displaying local Jewish history

 

 

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Jozefow Synagogue ~ the Synagogue is now a library

 

 

 

 

Kock wooden houses x 4 (b&w)

Wooden houses, Kock ~ once homes for Jewish families; most now run down and  derelict.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Various Portraits ~ Past & Present

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Polish Man outside his home in Kock ~ formerly the home of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Morgenstern (1787-1859) the Hassidic Tzadic of Kock. The town of Kock was once one of the most important centres for Hasidic Judaism in Poland.

 

 

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Polish Lady, Krasnik ~ Jewish families numbered fifty per cent of the town’s population just before the outbreak of the Second World war.

 

 

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Polish Man with twenty eggs ~ behind the Synagogue, Krasnik

 

 

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Yard, Lubartowska Street, Lublin ~ formerly the edge of the Jewish Ghetto, previously the Jewish Quarter.

 

 

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Kazimierz Dolny ~ Archival image of Jewish life in Kazimierz Dolny before the Second World War

 

 

 

 

Portraits Related to Varied Ways of Remembering & Forgetting

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Judy Josephs and Rose Lipszyc, Survivors of the Lublin Ghetto ~ between March and April 1942 over 30,000 Jewish people were transported from the Lublin Ghetto to their deaths at Belzec

 

 

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

 

 

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Krzysztof Banach, Exhibition Curator, Majdanek Museum

 

 

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Szymon, Artist standing in his Studio, formerly the edge of the Jewish Ghetto in Lublin

 

 

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Joanna Zetar, Grodzka Gate NN Theatre Centre, Lublin ~ talking about Memory of Place

 

 

415A5769-1-2Emil Majuk, Brama Grodzka Teatr NN ~ co-founder of the Shtetl Routes Guidebook & On-line Map

 

 

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Pawel Matraszek with Sefer Torah, Chevra Nosim Synagogue, Lublin

 

 

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Daniel & Eli, Custodians at Zamosc Synagogue ~ Eli is handing out Yarmulkes (skullcaps) to visitors

 

 

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Adam, Ticket Seller & Caretaker at Remah Synagogue

 

 

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Valentyna Bahriy, Waitress at Mandragora, Lublin Old Town ~ a Jewish ‘styled’ Restaurant

 

 

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Kawel at Jozefow Synagogue ~ the former Synagogue is now a Library

 

 

415A5784-1 Pawel Matraszek, Chevra Nosim Synagogue, Lublin

 

 

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Jehovahs Witnesses ~ outside Oswiecim Jewish Cemetery

 

 

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Local Volunteers ~ Oswiecim Jewish Cemetry

 

 

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Oswiecim Market ~ adjacent to Oswiecim Jewish Cemetery

 

 

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Rose Lipszyc, Survivor of the Lublin Ghetto at Belzec Museum (former Death Camp)

 

 

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Judy, Survivor, being interviewed at Belzec Museum

 

 

 

 

 

Collective Memory at Sites of Atrocity & Loss

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Plaszow ~ Memorial Site

 

 

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Majdenek Concentration Camp ~ Mass Burial Memorial Site

 

 

415A3285-1 Krepiec Forest ~ Mass Burial Memorial Site

 

 

415A3036-1Rememberance Walk to Umschlagplatz from Lublin Old Town (formerly the Jewish Ghetto) ~ from Umschlagplatz Jews were transported to the Belzec Death Camp

 

 

 

 

 

The Archeology of Memory

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Fragment of broken Matzevah (Memorial Jewish Headstone) ~ Oswiecim Jewish Cemetery

 

 

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Matzevah Fragment being Scanned at Oswiecim Jewish Museum ~ as part of the Staffordshire Forensic Science Archeological Survey Team

 

 

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Computerised Image of Scanned Matzevah Fragment

 

 

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Photographing recovered & re-placed Matzevahs in Oswiecim Jewish Cemetery

 

 

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Measuring the ground for a topographic map ~ Oswiecim Jewish Cemetery

 

 

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Dr Caroline Sturdy Colls, Professor of Conflict Archaeology and Genocide Investigation and Research Lead, Centre of Archaeology, Staffordshire University ~ leading the Archeological Survey at Oswiecim Jewish Cemetery

 

 

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Steven D Reece, Baptist Minister, 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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Forensic Archeological Students from Staffordshire University ~ measuring Matzevah fragments, Oswiecim Jewish Cemetery

 

 

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Katie with Geophysical Survey Ground Scanner

 

 

 

 

 

 

415A4083-1-2 Ohel (Tomb) ~ Oswiecim Jewish Cemetery

 

 

 

 

 

 

All images above were taken between January 2017 and August 2017 (except the archival images)

© Barry Falk 2017