The inspiration behind ‘Shoah: Contemporary Images of the Holocaust’ was personal recollections and visits made by me to relevant sites in Germany, Austria, The Netherlands, the Czech Republic, France, Lithuania, Latvia and Poland over the course of many years. During these, an attempt was made to go behind the surface and to record, verbally and visually, relatively unknown material to co-exist alongside established information. This meant that sites of Jewish life prior to the advent of the Nazi genocide as well as places that have been elevated in significance as a result of it, became very much the preserve of attention and focus. Former synagogues, community centres, streets and homes as well as old cemeteries and even sports stadia were photographed alongside the remains of Nazi persecution – ghettoes, camps, railway tracks, deportation sites as well as Gestapo and SS buildings and even the homes used by prominent officers during their sojourn of officialdom and reign of terror. The purpose was not to reveal everything, to go everywhere or to chronicle every episode. It was rather to offer snapshots of a story that has always been much more than a brief twelve-year nightmare[i]. It was to encapsulate things before and afterwards, to highlight the mundane as well as the known, the routine as well as the exceptional, the perennial as well as the specific.
Some of these photos formed an accompaniment to my first published book on the Holocaust – ‘Suspended Disbelief: Reflections on the Holocaust’ (Helion and Company, 16th June 2016).
From Amsterdam to Lublin, from Terezín to Auschwitz, from Berlin to Warsaw, from Dachau to Majdanek, from Łódź to Sobibór, from Paris to Paneriai, the lens of my camera has sought to capture and epitomise, to record as well as to influence. What you see is not necessarily familiar or indeed famous but suggestive and no less important. They are my own choice from thousands of images, a choice conditioned not just by the need to tell a story but also by the opportunism of finding the right photograph at the right time.
The use only of contemporary images is deliberate. To demonstrate the present reality of a story that should never be confined to the past.
These images will appeal to Holocaust historian, interested observer and social commentator alike. Together they comprise immersion into a journey that took life away but which also seeks to reaffirm its soul and its significance.
[i] The period of Nazi rule from 1933 to 1945.
Use of the term 'Shoah'
'Shoah' is a Hebrew word that means 'catastrophe'. It is a term that is used by many Jews and non-Jews to refer specifically to the Nazi genocide that was the Holocaust. The acclaimed French film-maker Claude Lanzmann used 'Shoah' as his title for what is one of the most pivotal and inspirational films ever made on the subject. It is recommended and essential viewing.
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