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 during the Twentieth Century. This project is also concerned with memory ~ how we both remember and forget past 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 to look at how extended trauma effects individuals and communities and how memory is held within communities, passed down through generations and protected within Heritage sites. However, I am also interested in how memories of trauma can be buried by collective amnesia; Poland’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 an on-going project built up through photographs taken on site, archival images, ideas and conversations.

© 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 & Destruction

Przemyśl New Jewish Cemetery ~ despite it’s neglected state the Cemetery retains it’s graves & Matzevahs (headstones)

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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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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

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View towards Krakow

 

 

 

In Search of Amnesia - Various Chimneys

 

 

 

 

Various Structures ~ Abandoned & Uncanny

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

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Orla Synagogue ~ deconsecrated & derelict

 

 

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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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Model of Lublin Yeshiva (now the Ilan Hotel)

 

 

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Rabbi Meir Shapiro, founder of Lublin Yeshiva (Jewish School for Talmud & Torah studies).

 

 

 

 

Fake Construct in Place of Real Trauma

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 the film Schindler’s List by Steven Spielberg

 

In Search of Amnesia - Archival Images German SS

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

 

 

 

 

The Palimpsest of Memory

Palimpsest: ‘Something reused or altered but still bearing visible traces of its earlier form.’

 

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Wall Mural at Tykocin Synagogue ~ one of the few preserved stone synagogues in Poland, dating back to 1642. The synagogue is now a museum and no longer used for religious services.

 

 

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Display Case, Tykocin Synagogue.

 

 

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Remah Synagogue, Krakow ~ open to public viewing.

 

 

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Lancut Cemetery Chapel ~ visiting Hasidic Jew saying Kaddish. The cemetery, established in the 17th C was desecrated by Germans during the Second World War and the Matzevahs removed.

 

 

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

 

 

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Remah Cemetry, Krakow.

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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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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

 

 

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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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Jehovahs Witnesses ~ outside 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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Scanning the Ground for Mass Burial Site ~ Chrzanow 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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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