CES: The Holocaust and Photography: New Perspectives


Thursday, February 16, 2017, 4:15pm to 6:00pm


Adolphus Busch Hall, Hoffmann Room, 27 Kirkland Street, Cambridge

Jews In Modern Europe Study Group


Michael Berkowitz

Professor of Modern Jewish History, Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies, University College, London

The presentation is based on Berkowitz's current research, conducted most recently at Yad Vashem and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, on the engagement of European Jewry with photography in the interwar period and the Holocaust. This is part of a history of an occupational cohort across Europe that most scholars have been reticent to recognize as predominantly Jewish.


Focusing first on the period from the fin-de-siecle to 1939, Berkowitz will examine the work of Jewish photographers in less-urbanized areas of Poland and Lithuania, revealing avant-garde professionals in towns such as Dusetos, Mlawa, Makhzik, Palanga, and Bolechow. His work also interweaves his own family¹s history in photography, which ranges from the Baisogala, Kovno and Kybartai, to the court of the tsar in St. Petersburg. Berkowitz will then explore contrasts and continuity between Jewish photographic activity during the pre-war period with those who managed to work as photographers after 1939. In addition to serving the Judenräte in cities such as Lodz and Warsaw, Jews operated studios, serving fellow Jews in several Nazi ghettos and occupied zones, including Radom, Sosnowiec, Paris, and Brussels. Special attention will be paid to an extraordinary body of photographs from Tyczyn. In part, this analysis speaks to the controversy between Raul Hilberg and Dan Michman, aired some time ago, as to whether Nazi ghettos should be seen mainly as a step to genocide, or as sites of daily life that in some ways persisted despite extreme conditions.



Derek Penslar