Memory Unearthed: The Lodz Ghetto Photographs of Henryk Ross

Memory Unearthed offers an extraordinarily rare glimpse of life inside the Lodz Ghetto during its existence from 1940 to 1944, through the lens of Polish Jewish photojournalist Henryk Ross (1910–1991).

Situated in the heart of Poland, the city of Lodz was occupied by German forces in 1939. The Germans consolidated the area’s Jewish population—more than 100,000 people—into a poor industrial section of the city, sealing it off from the outside world, making the Lodz Ghetto second in Jewish population only to the Warsaw Ghetto in German-occupied Europe.

Henryk Ross was among those confined to the ghetto in 1940 and he was put to work by the Nazi regime as a bureaucratic photographer for the Jewish Administration’s Statistics department. Ross took official photographs for Jewish identification cards, as well as propaganda images that promoted the ghetto’s efficiency. Unofficially—and at great risk—Ross documented the complex realities of life under Nazi rule, from the relative privileges enjoyed by the elites to the deportation of thousands to death camps at Chelmno and Auschwitz. Hoping to preserve a historical record, Ross buried his negatives in 1944. He returned for them after Lodz’s liberation, discovering that more than half of the original 6,000 survived.

Right: Henryk Ross, Ghetto police escorting residents for deportation (detail), 1942–44. Contact print from 35 mm negative. Collection of the Art Gallery of Ontario. Gift from Archive of Modern Conflict, 2007. © Art Gallery of Ontario, 2016.
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