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April 26, 2017

Henryk Ross’s Grim Holocaust Photographs Document Daily Life in the Lodz Ghetto

From 1940 to 1944, photographer Henryk Ross (1910-1991) documented life inside the Lodz Ghetto in Poland. Officially, Ross worked for the ghetto’s Jewish Administration’s Statistics department, photographing the Jewish ghetto’s inhabitants for identification cards and for propaganda images to be used by the Nazis. When Ross was not working in his bureaucratic capacity however, he risked his life to photograph the reality of daily life in the ghetto. Sometimes he shot through holes in walls or cracks in doors. On occasion, he flicked open his overcoat, took a photo, then quickly covered up his camera. If he’d been discovered, he would have been shot.

"There was an order: 'All the Jews to the ghetto!'" Henryk Ross would later recall. "The Jews in the town were robbed. They carried the remains of their possessions into the [Lodz] ghetto."

When news of the final order for the liquidation reached the ghetto in August, 1944, he packed the negatives into iron canisters, locked them into a tar-lined, wooden box and buried them under the remains of a house, where they lay, mouldering, for seven months.

Henryk Ross’s Litzmannstadt Ghetto identification card, December 25, 1941.

"I buried my negatives in the ground in order that there should be some record of our tragedy... I was anticipating the total destruction of Polish Jewry. I wanted to leave a historical record of our martyrdom." - Henryk Ross said.

As one of the mere 877 recorded survivors of the ghetto, Ross returned for the negatives after Lodz’s liberation, discovering that more than half of the original 6,000 remained intact. His photographs, acquired by the Art Gallery of Ontario in 2007.

A group of women with sacks and pails, walking past synagogue ruins heading for deportation.

A smiling child.

A man who saved the Torah from the rubble of the synagogue on Wolborska Street.

Deportation in winter.

Residents sorting belongings left behind after deportation.

Portrait of a couple, c.1940-1944.

Portrait of a couple, c.1940-1944.

Food pails and dishes left behind by ghetto residents who had been deported to death camps.

A mass deportation of ghetto residents.

A boy walking in front of the bridge crossing Zigerska (the "Aryan") street.

A boy walks among a crowd of people being deported in winter.

A boy searching for food.

A sick man on the ground.

Henryk Ross photographing for identification cards, Jewish Administration, Department of Statistics.

Sign for Jewish residential area (“Jews. Entry Forbidden”).

A man walking in winter in the ruins of the synagogue on Wolborska street (destroyed by Germans in 1939).

Children being transported to Chelmno nad Nerem (renamed Kulmhof) death camp.

"Soup for lunch” (Group of men alongside building eating from pails).

Men hauling cart for bread distribution.

A festive occassion.

A nurse feeding children in an orphanage.

A performance of 'Shoemaker of Marysin' in the factory.

A scarecrow with a yellow Star of David.

A wedding in the ghetto.

Young girl.

Woman with her child (Ghetto policemen's family).

(Images: Henryk Ross, Collection of the Art Gallery of Ontario)


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