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
‘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)
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 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.
Forest fascination is also related 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.”
The Concept of Remembrance in Places of Desecration & Destruction
Przemyśl New Jewish Cemetery
Przemyśl Old Jewish Cemetry
Treblinka Memorial Site ~ between July 1942 and August 1943 it is estimated that 900,000 Jewish people were put to death at Treblinka.
Plaszow Memorial Site, Krakow
Various Structures ~ Abandoned, Half Constructed & Uncanny
Buildings Associated with Buried Memories
11 Heltmana Street, bordering the former Plaszow Concentration Camp; Headquarters for Camp Commanders ~ January 2017
11 Heltmana Street, bordering the former Plaszow Concentration Camp; Headquarters for Camp Commanders ~ July 2017
22 Heltmana Street, formerly Amon Goth’s home, Camp Commandant for Plaszow Concentration Camp ~ January 2017
22 Heltmana Street, formerly Amon Goth’s home, Camp Commandant for Plaszow Concentration Camp ~ July 2017
Bilgoraj Synagogue ~ a replica of the Great Wooden Synagogue in Wolpa, Belarus. There once were 241 wooden synagogues; the German Nazis burnt down every single one.
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.
Places that Contain Significant Memory of Loss
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.
Display Case, Tykocin Synagogue
Remah Synagogue, Krakow
Oscar Schindler’s Desk, Schindler’s Factory Museum, Krakow
Yard, Lubartowska Street, Lublin ~ formerly the edge of the Jewish Ghetto
Portraits Related to Varied Ways of Remembering
Jew and non Jew at Belzec Memorial Museum ~ (from right to left) Robert, Donny, Grazyna, Jasia and Donny’s Cousin ~ Robert, Grazyna and Jasia welcome visiting Jews with home-made cholla
Krzysztof Banach, Exhibition Curator, Majdanek Museum
Szymon, Artist standing in his Studio, formerly the edge of the Jewish Ghetto in Lublin
Joanna Zetar, Grodzka Gate NN Theatre Centre, Lublin ~ talking about Memory of Place
Daniel & Eli, Custodians at Zamosc Synagogue
Adam, Ticket Seller & Caretaker at Remah Synagogue
Vladimir from Odessa, painting Lublin Old Town, standing on a bridge near the Grodzka Gate (Jew Gate) ~ formerly the Jewish Quarter
Judy, Survivor, being interviewed at Belzec Museum
Collective Memory at Sites of Atrocity & Loss
Plaszow Memorial Site
Majdenek Concentration Camp ~ Mass Burial Site
Krepiec Forest Mass Burial Site
Walk to Umschlagplatz from Lublin Old Town (formerly the Jewish Ghetto) ` from Umschlagplatz Jews were transported to the Belzec Death Camp
All images above were taken in January 2017 and July 2017 (except the archival images)
© Barry Falk 2017