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Life, Love And Murder: A Secret Lodz Ghetto Time Capsule

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“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 (1950s, Israel) recalls his work as a news and sports photographer in the Lodz ghetto.

 

Lodz ghetto photos c. 1940-1944 A smiling child.

c. 1940-1944. A smiling child.

 

Employed by the Department of Statistics to record Jews working as slaves for the German Army in the Lodz ghetto, Henryk Ross would also capture the every day images of human life enduring forced labour and life under a death sentence in a part of the Polish city surrounded by armed guards and barbed wire . As well as recording scenes of depravation, abuse, disease and murder, Ross also recorded Jews at home before they were despatched to the death camps at Chelmno nad Nerem and Auschwitz.

In late 1944, people trapped in the Lodz Ghetto were in line to be slaughtered. Fearing his life coming to its end, Ross placed 6,000 negatives in a tar-lined box and buried them near his home. One day he hoped someone would find them and tell the world what had happened. One day when all the Jews were gone, someone would remember.

On Jan. 19, 1945, the Red Army rode into Lodz. Just 877 Jews were there to see them. There had been more than 233,000 Jews in Lodz when the Germans came.  “The establishment of the ghetto is only a transitional measure,” wrote Friedrich Übelhör, German governor of the Kalisz-Lodz district, on December 10, 1939. “I reserve for myself the decision as to when and how the city of Lodz will be cleansed of Jews. The final aim must be to burn out entirely this pestilential boil.” The Soviets arrived too late for so many. The last train to the Nazi death camps left Lodz on 29 August 1944.

Henryk Ross was one of the survivors.  Two months later Ross journeyed to his home on Jagielonska Street and dug for his treasure. Many negatives has been badly damaged. But many had not.

 

Lodz ghetto photos c. 1940-1944 Residents sorting belongings left behind after deportation.

1944. Food pails and dishes left behind by ghetto residents who had been deported to death camps.

c. 1940-1944 Sign for Jewish residential area (“Jews. Entry Forbidden”).

c. 1940-1944.Sign for Jewish residential area (“Jews. Entry Forbidden”).

 

Renee Salt was sent to Lodz in 1942, aged 13, from another ghetto in her Polish hometown of Zdunska Wola, with her parents and an aunt.

Her younger sister had already been taken away by the Gestapo.

“The overcrowding, starvation and disease were just appalling. People were dying in the streets,” she told BBC News Online.

“We came with nothing – we didn’t have a piece of underwear to change into. The day we arrived we were starving and my mother gave something to a shopkeeper for a piece of cabbage. We were so hungry we could have swallowed wood…

“We got up at 0630 every morning at the latest. You had a drink if you could boil the water, ate, perhaps, if you had crumbs of bread, and worked all day long. We worked hard on starvation rations.

“We had no running water, no sanitation, no toilet. There was always a bucket outside. Life was very, very difficult. If you had a piece of cabbage, you didn’t have a piece of coal to cook it on. How can one describe conditions like that?” Mrs Salt said. “Looking back, you really can’t believe that you survived or that it happened, so how can others?

“The SS came to our places of work and brought everyone out to say the ghetto was being shut down,” Mrs Salt said. They promised us everything – good accommodation, good medical care, everything – as long as we came to the train station voluntarily.

“Soon the cleaners found notes in the cattle trucks saying people were being taken to concentration camps and killed. That was the first we heard of it. We couldn’t believe it.

“If we had known, I have no doubt that many people would have taken their own lives.”

 

1940 A man walking in winter in the ruins of the synagogue on Wolborska street (destroyed by Germans in 1939). Lodz Ghetto

1940
A man walking in winter in the ruins of the synagogue on Wolborska street (destroyed by Germans in 1939).

Lodz ghetto c. 1940-1944 A boy walking in front of the bridge crossing Zigerska (the "Aryan") street.

c. 1940-1944
A boy walking in front of the bridge crossing Zigerska (the “Aryan”) street.

c. 1940-1944 A group of women with sacks and pails, walking past synagogue ruins heading for deportation.

c. 1940-1944
A group of women with sacks and pails, walking past synagogue ruins heading for deportation.

1940 Henryk Ross photographing for identification cards, Jewish Administration, Department of Statistics.

1940
Henryk Ross photographing for identification cards, Jewish Administration, Department of Statistics.

1940 A man who saved the Torah from the rubble of the synagogue on Wolborska Street.

1940
A man who saved the Torah from the rubble of the synagogue on Wolborska Street.

c. 1940-1944 Portrait of a couple.

c. 1940-1944
Portrait of a couple.

c. 1940-1944 Portrait of a couple.

c. 1940-1944
Portrait of a couple.

c. 1940-1944 A nurse feeding children in an orphanage.

c. 1940-1944
A nurse feeding children in an orphanage.

Lodz ghetto photos

c. 1940-1944 A performance of 'Shoemaker of Marysin' in the factory.

c. 1940-1944
A performance of ‘Shoemaker of Marysin’ in the factory.

c. 1940-1942 Woman with her child (Ghetto policemen's family).

c. 1940-1942
Woman with her child (Ghetto policemen’s family).

c. 1940-1944 A wedding in the ghetto.

c. 1940-1944
A wedding in the ghetto.

1942 Children being transported to Chelmno nad Nerem (renamed Kulmhof) death camp.

1942
Children being transported to Chelmno nad Nerem (renamed Kulmhof) death camp.

lodz ghetto tr lodz ghetto 4

1942 Men hauling cart for bread distribution.

1942
Men hauling cart for bread distribution.

c. 1940-1944 "Soup for lunch” (Group of men alongside building eating from pails).

c. 1940-1944
“Soup for lunch” (Group of men alongside building eating from pails).

c. 1940-1944 A sick man on the ground.

c. 1940-1944
A sick man on the ground.

Lodz ghetto photos c. 1940-1944 A scarecrow with a yellow Star of David.

c. 1940-1944
A scarecrow with a yellow Star of David.

lodz ghetto 33g

Lodz ghetto photos 1944 A boy walks among a crowd of people being deported in winter.

1944
A boy walks among a crowd of people being deported in winter.

. 1940-1944 Residents sorting belongings left behind after deportation.

. 1940-1944
Residents sorting belongings left behind after deportation.

Lodz ghetto photos 1944 A mass deportation of ghetto residents.

1944. A mass deportation of ghetto residents.

 

Lodz, Poland, Henryk Ross, a photographer and a worker of the Judenrat statistics department in the ghetto (Yad Vashem Photo Archives,

Lodz, Poland, Henryk Ross

 

Via: Art Gallery of Ontario

 

  • Spuddie

    Just to make things even more heart-wrenching, bear in mind the pictures of young children. Nazis murdered anyone in their clutches under 12-13 as a matter of course.