The Łódź Ghetto, in Łódź, Poland, was one of hundreds of Nazi ghettos across Europe, used to separate Jews from the rest of the population. Most residents would be sent to concentration camps, unless disease or starvation killed them first. Two hundred and forty thousand Jews were brought into the Łódź Ghetto; by the time the war ended, fewer than 900 were left alive.
One of the survivors was Henryk Ross (1910-1991), a Polish Jew who had shown up at the ghetto with a camera.
Pictured: Scarecrow with yellow Jude star by Henryk Ross. 1940-1944. Gelatin silver print. Art Gallery of Ontario. Gift from the Archive of Modern Conflict, 2007.
Henryk Ross's images of life inside the Łódź Ghetto are now the subject of a photography exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston called "Memory Unearthed," curated by Kristen Gresh.
Credit: CBS News
Because Henryk Ross had experience in photography, he was given the job of taking ID photos. He was also tasked with taking "happy" photos, meant as propaganda to show that life was just perfectly normal inside the ghetto.
Pictured: Henryk Ross photographing for identification cards, Jewish Administration, Department of Statistics. 1940. Gelatin silver print.
Art Gallery of Ontario. Gift from the Archive of Modern Conflict, 2007
But the reality of the ghetto was so horrific, so unfathomable, Ross risked his life to photograph it for the rest of the world to see. "He was using his camera as a weapon of resistance," curator Kristen Gersh told correspondent Chip Reid, "and it was truly an act of resistance to go secretly snap a shot, or hide somewhere to take photographs."
Pictured: Ghetto police with woman behind barbed wire by Henryk Ross. 1942. Gelatin silver print.
Art Gallery of Ontario. Gift from the Archive of Modern Conflict, 2007.
In March 1945 a box of negatives and documents buried by Ross in the ghetto, at 12 Jagielonska Street, Lodz, was excavated. Of the 6,000 negatives, half were destroyed by groundwater, but about 3,000 survived, though many were damaged.
Gelatin silver print from half-tone negative. From the Art Gallery of Ontario. Gift from the Archive of Modern Conflict.
The fact that many of the surviving negatives show their damage adds to the exhibit, said Gersh: "It feels that the photographs themselves are imbued with the history of what people were living through. So it feels very symbolic."
Pictured: Ghetto police escorting residents for deportation by Henryk Ross, 1942-1944. Contact print from original 35 mm negative. Art Gallery of Ontario, Gift from Archive of Modern Conflict, 2007.