LIfe in the Lodz Ghetto


1940-1944

Inside the Lodz Ghetto

A record of atrocity and resistance, buried in a wooden box

by Alex Q. Arbuckle

1940

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

IMAGE: HENRYK ROSS, COLLECTION OF THE ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO

When Nazi Germany invaded Poland in 1939, they created walled-off ghettos in the larger cities to concentrate and imprison the Jewish residents.

Henryk Ross worked as a news and sports photographer in the city of Lodz. Once in the city’s ghetto, he was employed by the Department of Statistics to shoot identification photos and propaganda images of the factories which used Jewish slave labor to produce supplies for the German Army.

When not on the job, he documented the horrific realities of the ghetto, at tremendous personal risk. Peeking his lens through holes in walls, cracked doorways, and the folds of his overcoat, he captured scenes of starvation, disease, and executions.

As tens of thousands of Jews were deported from the ghetto to the death camps at Chelmno nad Nerem and Auschwitz, he kept shooting.

He also captured tiny sparks of joy — plays, concerts, celebrations, weddings — each one an act of resistance against a dehumanizing regime.

c. 1940-1944

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

IMAGE: HENRYK ROSS, COLLECTION OF THE ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO

c. 1940-1944

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

IMAGE: HENRYK ROSS, COLLECTION OF THE ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO

Having an official camera, I was able to capture all the tragic period in the Lodz Ghetto. I did it knowing that if I were caught my family and I would be tortured and killed.
HENRYK ROSS

1940

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

IMAGE: HENRYK ROSS, COLLECTION OF THE ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO

c. 1940-1944

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

IMAGE: HENRYK ROSS, COLLECTION OF THE ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO

In late 1944, as the Soviets continued to push the Germans back and the Polish resistance rose up in Warsaw, it became clear that the Lodz Ghetto would soon be liquidated.

Believing that he could be deported to an extermination camp at any moment, Ross gathered 6,000 of his negatives, placed them in a tar-lined box, and buried them near his house in the hopes that someday they might be found.

The Soviet Army finally liberated what remained of the ghetto on Jan. 19, 1945. Of the more than 200,000 Jews who had passed through, just 877 remained.

Henryk Ross was one of them.

In March 1945, he returned to his house on Jagielonska Street and dug up his time capsule. Moisture had destroyed or damaged half of the negatives, but enough had survived to ensure that the stories of those who lived and died in the ghetto would not be forgotten.

His photos, now in the collection of the Art Gallery of Ontario, are currently on exhibit in “Memory Unearthed: The Lodz Ghetto Photographs of Henryk Ross,” at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston through July 30.

1940

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

IMAGE: HENRYK ROSS, COLLECTION OF THE ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO

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

c. 1940-1944

Portrait of a couple.

IMAGE: HENRYK ROSS, COLLECTION OF THE ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO

c. 1940-1944

IMAGE: HENRYK ROSS, COLLECTION OF THE ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO

c. 1940-1944

A nurse feeding children in an orphanage.

IMAGE: HENRYK ROSS, COLLECTION OF ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO

c. 1940-1944

A festive occassion.

IMAGE: HENRYK ROSS, COLLECTION OF THE ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO

c. 1940-1944

A performance of ‘Shoemaker of Marysin’ in the factory.

IMAGE: HENRYK ROSS, COLLECTION OF THE ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO

c. 1940-1942

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

IMAGE: HENRYK ROSS, COLLECTION OF THE ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO

c. 1940-1944

A wedding in the ghetto.

IMAGE: HENRYK ROSS, COLLECTION OF THE ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO

1942

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

IMAGE: HENRYK ROSS, COLLECTION OF THE ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO

c. 1940-1944

A boy searching for food.

IMAGE: HENRYK ROSS, COLLECTION OF THE ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO

c. 1940-1944

Young girl.

IMAGE: HENRYK ROSS, COLLECTION OF THE ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO

1942

Men hauling cart for bread distribution.

IMAGE: HENRYK ROSS, COLLECTION OF THE ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO

c. 1940-1944

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

IMAGE: HENRYK ROSS/COLLECTION OF ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO

c. 1940-1944

A sick man on the ground.

IMAGE: HENRYK ROSS, COLLECTION OF THE ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO

c. 1940-1944

A scarecrow with a yellow Star of David.

IMAGE: HENRYK ROSS, COLLECTION OF THE ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO

1944

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

IMAGE: HENRYK ROSS, COLLECTION OF THE ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO

c. 1940-1944.

Deportation in winter.

IMAGE: HENRYK ROSS, COLLECTION OF THE ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO

1944

A mass deportation of ghetto residents.

IMAGE: HENRYK ROSS, COLLECTION OF THE ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO

c. 1940-1944

Residents sorting belongings left behind after deportation.

IMAGE: HENRYK ROSS, COLLECTION OF THE ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO

1944

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

IMAGE: HENRYK ROSS, COLLECTION OF THE ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO

c. 1940-1944

A smiling child.

IMAGE: HENRYK ROSS, COLLECTION OF THE ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO

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