A Jewish photographer captured life in the ghetto in occupied Poland at his own risk.

A Jewish photographer captured life in the ghetto in occupied Poland at his own risk.

Categories: Europe | History

When Nazi Germany took over Poland in 1939, fenced-in ghettos for Jews were created in the country's largest cities. Henryk Ross, who had worked as a sports reporter in the city of Lodz before the war, was hired by the Statistics Office to take identification and propaganda photographs from factories where the Nazis used Jewish slave labor to equip their armies.

A Jewish photographer captured life in the ghetto in occupied Poland at his own risk.

When Ross was not busy with this work, he photographed the realities of the Lodz ghetto, the second largest in Poland. Through holes in walls, doorways and folds of coats, he filmed famines, diseases and executions. Tens of thousands of Jews were expelled from the ghettos to the death camps in Chelmno and Auschwitz, and Ross continued to film. In addition to the horrors of the Holocaust, his photographs also contain timid manifestations of joy: performances, concerts, holidays, weddings. Each such moment was part of the opposition to the inhuman structure of life in the ghetto.

A Jewish photographer captured life in the ghetto in occupied Poland at his own risk.

A Jewish photographer captured life in the ghetto in occupied Poland at his own risk.

A Jewish photographer captured life in the ghetto in occupied Poland at his own risk.

“I had a service camera, so I could capture that tragic time in the Lodz ghetto. I did this knowing that if I got caught, I and my family would be tortured and killed.”

Henryk Ross

A Jewish photographer captured life in the ghetto in occupied Poland at his own risk.

Henrik Ross photographs people for ID cards. Jewish Administration, Office of Statistics.

A Jewish photographer captured life in the ghetto in occupied Poland at his own risk.

At the end of 1944, it became clear that the Lodz ghetto would soon be liquidated: the Soviet Union was pushing back enemy troops, and a resistance movement had risen in Warsaw. Ross understood that he could be sent to a concentration camp at any moment, so he collected 6,000 filmed negatives in a caulked box and buried it near his house on Jagiellonian Street in the hope that someday the photographs would be found.

“I buried the negatives in the ground because somewhere it was necessary to preserve information about our tragedy. I assumed that Polish Jewry would be completely destroyed, and I wanted to make a record of our suffering for history.”

Henryk Ross

The Soviet army finally liberated the people still remaining in the ghetto on January 19, 1945. Of the 200 thousand Jews in the city, only 877 remained, and one of them was Henryk Ross. In March 1945, he returned to his home and dug up this “time capsule.” Half of the negatives were damaged by humidity, but the remaining photographs were enough to preserve the memory of the dead people.

Ross's photographs, owned by the Art Gallery of Ontario, can be seen at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston until July 30 in the exhibition "Memories from Underground: Henryk Ross's Photographs of the Lodz Ghetto."

A Jewish photographer captured life in the ghetto in occupied Poland at his own risk.

A Jewish photographer captured life in the ghetto in occupied Poland at his own risk.

A Jewish photographer captured life in the ghetto in occupied Poland at his own risk.

A Jewish photographer captured life in the ghetto in occupied Poland at his own risk.

A Jewish photographer captured life in the ghetto in occupied Poland at his own risk.

A Jewish photographer captured life in the ghetto in occupied Poland at his own risk.

A Jewish photographer captured life in the ghetto in occupied Poland at his own risk.

A Jewish photographer captured life in the ghetto in occupied Poland at his own risk.

A Jewish photographer captured life in the ghetto in occupied Poland at his own risk.

A Jewish photographer captured life in the ghetto in occupied Poland at his own risk.

A Jewish photographer captured life in the ghetto in occupied Poland at his own risk.

A Jewish photographer captured life in the ghetto in occupied Poland at his own risk.

A Jewish photographer captured life in the ghetto in occupied Poland at his own risk.

A Jewish photographer captured life in the ghetto in occupied Poland at his own risk.

A Jewish photographer captured life in the ghetto in occupied Poland at his own risk.

A Jewish photographer captured life in the ghetto in occupied Poland at his own risk.

A Jewish photographer captured life in the ghetto in occupied Poland at his own risk.

A Jewish photographer captured life in the ghetto in occupied Poland at his own risk.

A Jewish photographer captured life in the ghetto in occupied Poland at his own risk.

A Jewish photographer captured life in the ghetto in occupied Poland at his own risk.

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