Monday, November 23, 2009

23rd november
it was an old synagogue, and the sign outside said: "I knew their faces". An exhibition of photographs of Polish Jews from just before the second world war. In the Jewish quarter of Cracow.
It was a collection of photographs that had been preserved, mostly, by accident or sometimes as desperate acts of defiance.
That each had the most extraprdinary story to tell... of villages where a third of the people had disappeared... families in their time of prosperity. School photographs where Jews and Poles were side by side. the captions spoke of the friendships between them, of the families who were lost, of the families and individuals who were sheltered and hid.
Some cruel - a man, out of focus, waist deep in water with hats bobbing beside him. The SS liked to drive Jewish men to the Vistula, take shots ach her through the crowd. at them.
And photograph them.
Another of Jews being forced to pull each other's beards to entertain their oppressors. Mostly they look down in deepest fear and shame: but one is looking out at us. Looking out at his tormentor.
Another, tiny, much creased one, of a survivor of Dr. Mengele, who hid the photo in her shoe during inspections. And survived.
Another of a young girl who was hid by a gentile family. They kept her photo too; and then lost track of her once the war ended.
Until the mother saw the young woman in a bust street.. and was unable to reach her to talk to her. And never spoke to her again.
A collection of photographs that had been hidden in a house in a village... and the photos were discovered by accident long after the war.
The man who found them displayed them in the town hall, desperate to find out the names of the people in the photographs.
But no-one could tell him: everyone had completely disappeared.

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