Views
1 year ago

2kNreeJ

2kNreeJ

epresented. The process

epresented. The process of deconstructing archival photographs can be informative, enlightening and often surprising for learners of all ages and levels. It can serve as an effective method to encourage the development of research skills, critical thinking and analytical skills in our students. HOLOCAUST EDUCATION IN PEDAGOGY, HISTORY, AND PRACTICE 104 Photography played an important role in not only capturing the events of the Holocaust as they unfolded, but also in documenting the crimes that resulted. As a visual window into the era, photographs can be used to discover how Jews struggled to survive and how they resisted Nazi persecution. Yet, it is the “gaze,” or the purpose and vantage point of the person who took the photographs, that is one of the most important factors to take into consideration. In this essay I examine three sources of photographs, highlighting what each can offer students and teachers who study the Holocaust, as well as providing contextual information about the limitations of certain sources, and resources to continue the learning process. I have listed these by category: familial photographs, ghetto photographs, and liberation photographs. This is not an exhaustive list, but it will lay the foundation for students and educators to expand their use of archival photographs. Familial Photographs One can find numerous, anonymous photographs on the Internet that captured Jewish life before the Holocaust. These, however, should be used with a cautionary note; without access to any accompanying basic information, it may prove exceedingly difficult for students and novice researchers to uncover much about the stories behind the photographs. Similarly, having students colourise such photographs in an attempt to make them more individual or to build empathy with the photographic subjects as human beings similar to themselves, will likely result only in creating a series of colourised photographs having done little to encourage critical thinking or analytical skills. Instead, encourage students to appreciate the photographs in their natural state and not to colourise them in an attempt to make them appear more real to the contemporary learner. These photographs represent not only the individuals of the era, but also the state of photography at the time. Have students deconstruct the photographs considering the photographer’s use of light and shadow, how the prints may have aged over time and adopted a sepia or another colour tone, the style and fit of clothes being worn by the subjects, the posture and poses of the individuals, and consider the photograph as a clue or artefact with which to view one moment in a historical timeline that has been captured for posterity.

CENTROPA, discussed previously in this publication by Dr. Lauren Granite, has an impressive online archive of photographs spanning the late 19 th century to the current era. For students of all levels, this is an immensely valuable visual trove complete with background information on each photograph. They can be effectively used to explore the richness and diversity of pre-Holocaust Jewish life in Europe while the background information can be used to assist in answering student questions. An example of what can be found in CENTROPA’s online archive 1 is this photograph of a summer family trip to Lake Balaton, in Western Hungary. The photograph immediately raises numerous questions about the subjects and the depiction, many of which will be answered in the accompanying text of an interview CENTROPA staff conducted with Katarina Lofflerova, the owner of the photograph (image 1). Used with care and thoughtfulness, such photographs provide students with new understandings about the diversity of Jewish life in pre-Holocaust Europe. Another visual source of Jewish life before the Holocaust can be found in the photographs that Jews carried with them in their luggage or personal possessions when they were deported to concentration and death camps such as Auschwitz-Birkenau. Today, a curated selection of these photographs are hauntingly displayed at the so-called Central Sauna building in Birkenau. These photographs represent some of the most treasured possessions and memories of Jews deported to the camp (image 2). They serve as a direct visual link to those murdered in the gas chambers of Birkenau. 105 HOLOCAUST EDUCATION IN PEDAGOGY, HISTORY, AND PRACTICE 1 http://www.european-jewry.org/ Image 1. Katarina Lofflelrova on a summer family trip. Courtesy of CENTROPA