Tuesday night marked the opening of an exhibit entitled The Face of the Ghetto, Pictures Taken by Jewish Photographers in the Lodz Ghetto 1940-1944, at the United Nations.
During World War II, the Nazis established the second largest ghetto for Jews in the occupied Polish city Lodz.
In April 1940, more than 160,000 Jews were cramped into the Lodz Ghetto, which consisted of an area of four square kilometers.
Because of the abominable conditions, more than 43,000 people died in the ghetto.
In 1942, tens of thousands of Jews with thousands of children among them were deported and killed in the extermination camp Kulmhof.
The ghetto was dissolved in August 1944, and except for a few people, all remaining inhabitants were killed in Auschwitz.
Professional Jewish photographers were instructed by the Jewish council of the ghetto to photograph daily life and work.
A collection of 12,000 prints made by these Jewish photographers in the Lodz Ghetto were preserved in the Lodz State Archive.
For this exhibit, 50 prints were selected. Each photograph comes with quotations from survivor reports and from the chronicle of the ghetto, which serve as captions.
The exhibit opened Tuesday night with remarks by Kiyo Akasaka, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information at the United Nations; Prof. Dr. Andreas Nachama, Executive Director of the Topography of Terror Foundation in Berlin; Ambassador Dr. Peter Wittig, Permanent Representative of Germany to the United Nations; Roman Kent, a survivor of the Lodz Ghetto and President of the International Auschwitz Committee; and Dr. Ingo Loose, Academic Advisor at the Institute of Contemporary History Munich-Berlin.
This exhibit was previously made available in Poland and Germany and Tuesday night was made available in New York for the first time.
As Mr. Kent stated in his remarks, a photograph cannot capture the stench of a dead body, the numbness of fingers from the freezing cold, the feeling of a parent who knows they will never see their child again, or having the will to live another day.
But as imperfect an exhibit as it is from the point of view of a survivor, it still makes it easier for people to see that the unimaginable occurred and gives faces to the victims.
And as Mr. Kent also noted, it is fitting that this exhibit is at the United Nations, where we are reminded that despite our differences, we are all inhabitants of the same planet.
The Face of the Ghetto will be available to the public at the United Nations Visitors Lobby, Main Gallery on First Avenue and 46th Street in New York City from January 24th through March 12th 2012.
It is an exhibition of the Topography of Terror Foundation in Berlin and was funded by the German Federal Foreign Office.