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

Happy Passover


Tonight is the first night of the Passover Festival, celebrated by Jews around the world.  It is a time of remembering when the Jews were slaves in Egypt.  God used Moses and Aaron to free them.  That would have been enough (Dayenu) but then God parted the Red Sea and allowed them to pass dry, preventing the Egyptians from following.  That would have been enough (Dayenu) but he fed them for 40 years in the desert before bringing them to the promised land.

Passover is a holiday of celebration, the celebration of Freedom.

The Freedom to live and worship as you please.  The Freedom, sometimes, to have a little fun with it all.

Enjoy this video and have a Happy Passover.

 

I Forgive You


Sacred writings usually show God as a forgiving God. The unity of the religions each show a different side of Divinity. When I was a child, I tried to grasp forgiveness. I was suspicious of why I should forgive. I had and have an alert which goes off in the face of hypocrisy and injustice. They are  the two things which I cannot tolerate. So, of course, the Universe gives me opportunities to practice forgiveness. Practice brings a healing to yourself. This is something most people don’t realize:  forgiving another heals us.

 

Buddha told a story of a man who had been slighted and who was angry with justice.  Buddha stated that the man decided he was going to remain angry. Time passed and he held on tightly to his anger. It began to worm itself into his heart and soul.  He became a different man. He was bitter, resentful and filled with hatred. Buddha says that anger that we hold on to  is like holding onto a hot piece of charcoal in our hands. The anger tightens the hold the hand has on the burning charcoal. The result is that you are left with a terrible burnt palm. The anger has left you scarred and damaged. The person who needs to be forgiven has no idea that anything has happened. Whether he feels sorry or not for the original action, has no effect on the outcome. The only thing that would change the situation would be the words, I forgive you.

 

In the Torah, there are instances of Moses talking with G-d and reminding him that he promised to forgive his people.  “Pardon  the iniquity of this people according to the greatness of your mercy, as you have forgiven this people, from Egypt until now. G-d’s answer was I have pardoned according to your word.” These words of forgiveness by G-d  become the central theme of the Jewish High Holidays. These holidays are coming up in September. Because of God’s forgiveness the Jewish people, despite its shortcomings, exists to this very day.

 

This is relevant to today because we so often hear news stories where forgiveness is the major point. I remember when the Pope forgave Ali Mehmet who shot him in Rome. It raised  tremendous controversy. Studies actually show that it is more life-changing to forgive than to be forgiven. There are many stories, though, of people who are forgiven changing their lives and becomiing the person they were meant to be.

 

One such story, is about  an idealistic California college student who won a Fulbright Scholarship to travel to South Africa to assist the anti-apartheid movement; she went there and was murdered by a black mob during a riot. Her parents grieved for years, then decided that they should honor the work that their daughter had been so dedicated to. So they quit their jobs, sold their home and walked away from their comfortable middle class life. Eventually, the parents met two of their daughter’s killers. The two men, who have been pardoned, tried to atone for their actions by doing public service for a foundation the parents established in their daughter’s name. The parents forgave the two killers and they became friends, and the young men now call the mother, “Mom.”

 

Forgiving what has been done to you,  and offering forgiveness for what you have done to another, is a concept that needs to be remembered and chosen in today’s world. It is a life-changing experience to decide to forgive. It is an important act to do in your life. It is one of the things we have moved away from in this so-called modern world. We have also left behind generosity, compassion, kindness, and gentleness. When we begin to put these concepts back into our lives, we will be on the road to peace. Peace within ourselves and throughout the entire world.

 

 

 

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Don;t let the sun go down on your anger. Photographed and copyrighted by Barbara Mattio 2012. Sunset in the Caribbean.

Don’t let the sun go down on your anger. Photographed and copyrighted by Barbara Mattio 2012. Sunset in the Caribbean.

 

 

Winter - Snow - Peace

The Holiday of Passover Part 1


passoverseder

            The seder plate is the center of the holiday

 

Right now the Jewish people are celebrating one of their biggest holidays. Passover is a holiday that centers on the family. It is not a holiday in remembrance of a person, but a time in Jewish history. The celebration is in recognition of the end of slavery for the Jewish people. They had been slaves in Egypt for a very long time. They made bricks and were owned by their masters just as black people used to be owned here in America. Memories are the strength of the Jewish people. Memory is the secret of eternal life. 

 

“A scattered nation that remembers its past and connects it with the present will undoubtedly have a future as a people and probably even a more glorious than the one in the past.”    —-Lev Levanda

 

“Memories are the key not to the past, but to the future.”   —Corrie Ten Boom

 

Passover is more than a holiday. Passover is the magical message of spring, the season Thoreau called “an experience in immortality.” It is the time when Mother Nature reminds us that rebirth and rejuvenation are part of God’s plan for the world. Passover is a biblical proclamation that human beings are meant to be free. Let me repeat that. Human beings are meant to be free.They are meant to be free and equal.  Passover is the birthday of the Jewish people, when the descendants of Abraham, Issac and Jacob were redeemed from Egypt and chosen by G-d to begin their roles as His Chosen People who would serve as a “light unto the natures.”

 

Passover is the wonder of ritual, the beauty of ceremony, the power of customs and the spirituality of tradition, the meaningfulness of shared observance. At the Passover Seder, all of this is transmitted to the next generation. It is handed down generation to generation. It is passed from the past to the present. Each Jew relives the escape every year during the Seder.

 

When the Jewish people are overwhelmed by personal problems that we think are insurmountable, they remember the story of their ancestors escaping from Egypt. It was impossible for the Jewish people to escape their owners, it was impossible for them to realize their dream of freedom, until G-d helped Moses lead them to freedom. The story is saved in the Torah to be re-experienced by any Jewish person.

 

“In Israel, in order to be a realist you must believe in miracles.”   —Prime Minister Ben Gurion

 

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”   —Albert Einstein

 

 

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The story is found in the Torah, in the book of Exodus. Joseph, the favorite son of Jacob who had been sold into Egyptian slavery by his own brothers, rose to a position of leadership second only to King Pharaoh. Years later, famine forced the family of Jacob to settle in Egypt where they were reunited. The Hebrews were accepted warmly out of respect for the assistance Joseph gave to the Pharaoh over the years. The Egyptian government acknowledged Joseph as their nation’s savior. In time, a new Pharaoh came to power and did not recognize the Hebrews past services to the nation of Egypt. He soon turned the Hebrew into slaves. The people cried out to G-d and with their leader, Moses, their prayers were answered. It took centuries but their prayers were answered. God performed a number of miracles, Ten Plagues that were visited on Egypt to convince the Pharaoh to “Let His People Go.”  On the night of the Tenth Plague, G-d smote the lives of every first born child. He passed-over the homes of the Jews and they fled into the night towards their freedom. Passover begins on the anniversary of that flight into the dark night being chased by the Egyptians.

 

 

Passover-Greeting

Another War is Taking Lives


Give us peace

We are now, once again dealing with another war on our planet. There is pain and death and blood and despair. Palestine and Israel are fighting. More accurately Hamas and Israel. Hamas has been shooting rockets into Israel. Now Israel is defending herself. This is of course, an over-simplification.

I am not writing to take sides. I am writing because Adonai’s children, Allah’s children, are killing each other again. Many women and children are being left homeless and injured or dead. Diplomacy and compromise is what will bring peace to our world. Not war. War teaches people to hate. It teaches people to hate who and what has hurt them.

Hamas is considered a terrorist organization. They say Jews are the enemy yet they launch missiles from sites next to the homes of innocent Palestinian people. A returning missile could totally destroy this home, but Hamas continues to use civilians as human shields — a policy which is against both international law and all the laws of common decency.

Not that Israel is blameless.  There are those who believe that Hamas is defending itself, and all Palestinians, against what they see as an unjust occupation.  I am not going to argue that point, on either side.  That is not what needs to be done here; there are many who can argue either side more eloquently than I can.

What I am going to argue is peace.  We cannot continue to fight one another, to hurt one another, to kill one another.  We cannot continue to destroy each other, and this planet, with our hatred of the mythical “others”.  We must learn that we are children of this Earth. We are brothers and sisters, all children of Adonai, of Allah, of The Beloved, The One from which we all come. We are all the same, we are all One, like the One who created us, who watches over us, who gives us peace, and wants us to have peace.

Peace is in our power, but we have to want it and we have to work for it.  The most important work we can do is to just love each other, whatever our religion, appearance, language, or  national origin.

“Maybe it can change, only if you want…

Don’t blame yourself, don’t blame me

but we’re the ones

who can feed this ground

so this poison tree doesn’t grow again.”

Point of No Return;  Duran Duran

Women’s Battles and How We Can Improve Life for Women


The issues facing women in our country are really not new or just a problem in America. We are actually in better shape than in some other countries. This doesn’t diminish our problems here. I am really tired of the excuse that this misogyny we face as women, began with Eve. My response is this, that:  Adam chose the fruit, Eve didn’t twist his arm. Yet, men are not held accountable for his decision. It is all Eve’s fault. Please. Divinity would not be omniscient and infinite if he did not know what happened and what the result would be. This story which is found in the Tanach is a good story. Jews also have a legend that the first woman was actually Lilith. She was not “created” from Adam’s rib. G-d created Lilith to be his equal partner. Adam couldn’t handle a partner so he asked G-d for a new helpmate who would listen to him and obey him. In the Jewish calendar, we are in the new year of 5773. It is a different calendar than the Western one. It is a Lunar calendar and based on the moon instead of the sun.

In the years since, the exile from the garden, most societies have blamed and diminished women as the natural course of events. 2012 is no exception. Women are treated without respect or equality by the men in their lives. Most sexist men and women feel women are weak, not as intelligent and the beginning of the evils men cannot resist.

Many fundamental sects of all the religions speak of  having to control women and that women should not speak. Some separate women in worship, some don’t allow them to speak, and some come up with ridiculous reasons that women are not equal. All of them use G-d as their as their right to use and punish women in unbelievable ways. Just being a woman, just having the power to create life seems to be a crime.

G-d, Adonia, The One, The Beloved, Buddha, Allah have been said to have given instructions for the deplorable treatment of women in the world. So the Divinity which resides within all of us and the fact that we are “All children of the Universe” matters not in terms of gender.

I began mentioning some of the terrible things that women were having to endure yesterday. I want to go back to the practice of polygamy in some fundamental Mormon sects. I find this to be disturbing because American children are being raised to think that this is a form of marriage that will help them into heaven. I have read the book, The True Origin of Mormon Polygamy.

This book goes back to the founding of the Mormon Church upon the revelations of one Joseph Smith. They actually started out in Kirkland, Ohio and as time went on they moved farther and farther west. My research has led me to many testimonies made under oath that tie Joseph Smith and Bringham Young to the revelations. Some were made by women that one or the other of them had tried to entice the women into plural marriages.

In the before mentioned book, you are able, if you wish, to read Joseph Smith’s revelation which he said he received on July 12, 1843. The revelation is called, “Revelation on Celestial Marriage.” Polygamy was made illegal by the Federal government in the late 1800’s.

My reading of memoirs of women and children who have “escaped” from polygamy (see yesterday’s blog for titles written by women involved in the practice of polygamy), have given me a distressing view of life for women and children in these sects. What I have discovered is that the so called “”Revelations” give Mormon men the right to have as many Celestial or Plural wives as they wish.

There are entire communities where everyone is living in polygamy. Los Molinos is one of them and is in California. These women must share their husband with ten, 20, or more sister-wives. They are raised to believe that the only way they have of getting into heaven is to become a jewel in a man’s crown. When he dies, if he has enough jewels, he will reach godhood. The wives make it in using his coat tails.

This is why educated women and girls put themselves into this situation. Polygamous families do have differences, in how the husband works out the challenges that come with more than one wife and with enough children to fill a cruise ship.

Some families live all together. the husband wives and all of the children. Try to imagine perhaps 50 people in a house trying to have meals, get ready for school/work, dealing with sick kids. The other scenario is that each wife and her children have their own home. In either scenario, the women have to deal on a regular basis watching their husband spend the night with one of the other women. This causes jealousy, envy, sadness, stress and loneliness for these women. Husbands often don’t know the children’s names or birthdays. Some wives go out to work and some stay at home to raise a scary amount of children.

The husband gives them as much money as he can, many are often working for the church so often that they aren’t available to work and generate an income all the time. Older male children often leave and go to large cities to earn money to send home for shoes, food, or additions to the family.

The fundamental sects keep this all a secret. Often women and children live in tents, or houses without running water or electricity. Most live in some of the worst poverty found in our country. The girls are prepared to take their place as a plural wife all of their lives. Some girls have been sealed into Celestial marriages as young as ten years of age.

Women have no control over their lives and abuse takes place and they believe they  have no recourse. Of course, they do, but these marriages are secret, and they are raised to believe they accept it unless they are willing to run with their children and lose their ticket to heaven.

Having enough food is difficult. Education doesn’t usually include college. Some of the sects are built in Mexico for protection from the law.  Having young girls as wives is more about the molestation of their young bodies than spirituality.

Wives often have children at home with the assistance of women who act as midwives. The man is to get anything he wants because he is a man. There are stories of girls being talked into running away from their families and marrying a man to ensure their heavenly place.

All of these conditions bring us repeatedly to women being property, owned by a man, demeaned, abused and kept in near slavery, in some cases. There is a Federal law which makes this lifestyle illegal, but it must be enforced. The Warren Jeffries case is just one of the cases happening in our country while we look away and women and children suffer. We must begin to enforce these laws without fear. We must protect these women and children. They — and all women and children — are part of the fabric of America.

An Attitude of Peace


There are people from every religion who believe in peace. There are prayers that are part of every culture, every religion that are lifted up for the cause of peace.

Zorastrrian prayer for peace:
“We pray to God to eradicate all the misery in the world; that understanding triumph over ignorance, that generosity triumph over indifference, that trust triumph over contempt and that truth triumph over falsehood.”

A Jewish prayer for peace
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, that we may walk the paths of the Most High, and we shall beat our swords into ploughshares, and our spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall we learn war anymore. And none shall be afraid, for the mouth of the Lord of Hosts has spoken.”

A Baha’l Prayer for Peace
“Be generous in prosperity, and thankful in adversity. Be fair in thy judgment, and guarded in thy speech. Be a lamp unto those who walk in darkness and a home for a stranger. Be eyes unto the blind, and a guiding light unto the feet of the erring. Be a breath of life to the body of humankind, a dew to the soil of the human heart, and a fruit upon the tree of humility.”

A Sikh Prayer for Peace
“God adjudges us according to our deeds, not the coat that we wear; that Truth is above everything, but higher still is truthful living. Know that we attain God when we love and only that victory endures in consequence of which no one is defeated.”

A Hindu Prayer for Peace

O God, lead us from the unreal into the real.

O God, lead us from darkness into light.

O God, lead us from death to immorality.

Peace, peace, peace unto all.”

A Buddhist Prayer for Peace
” May all being everywhere plagued with sufferings of body and mind quickly be freed from their illnesses. May those frightened cease to be afraid. and may those bound be free. May the powerless find power, and may people find themselves in trackless, fearful wilderness- the children, the aged, the unprotected, be guarded by beneficent celestials. And may they swiftly attain Buddhahood..

A Sufi Prayer For Peace

“Send Thy peace, O Lord, which is perfect and everlasting, that our souls may radiate peace.
Send Thy peace, O Lord, that we may think, act, and speak harmoniously.
Send They peace, O Lord, that we may be contented and thankful for They bountiful gifts.
Send Thy peace, O Lord, that amidst our worldly strife we may enjoy Thy bliss.
Send Thy peace, O Lord, that we may endure all, tolerate all in the thought of Thy grace and mercy.
Send Thy peace, O Lord,that our lives may become a divine vision, and in Thy light all darkness may vanish.
Send Thy peace, O Lord, Our Father and Mother; that we Thy children on earth may all unite in our personhood.”

Each spiritual path leads us to the Divinity. A different facet of Divinity. Does it have to look like the people around us, is Divinity energy, is it all-powerful, does it love us and want to experience life through us? Wherever in this great big world we live in, let us understand that there is One World, One Life and One Love. Let us each do all we can to remember this each day; that we all want the same peaceful world. And may that peace come to all countries and religions and races. May we learn to love the way we are loved by Divinity. May we not see anything besides Divinity within each other and may we build a peaceful world where love is all.

Photo by Barbara Mattio