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Memory Unearthed: The Lodz Ghetto Photographs of Henryk Ross

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Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center

Imprisoned in Europe’s second-largest ghetto in 1940, Polish Jewish photojournalist Henryk Ross was assigned to take official identification photographs for the Nazi-controlled Jewish Administration. The Nazis forbade him from taking any unofficial images, under penalty of death. Yet against the explicit directives, Ross put his life in jeopardy to document history – sneaking his camera through cracks in doors and underneath his overcoat. The result was more than 6,000 negatives showing the Jews’ persistent struggle to survive in the Lodz Ghetto. As the final residents of the ghetto were deported en masse to the Auschwitz and Chelmno concentration camps, Ross stayed behind to clean up – giving him the opportunity to bury his precious negatives. When the ghetto was liberated in 1945, Ross was able to excavate and recover about half of the buried negatives – one of the largest visual records of its kind to survive the Holocaust.

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