The Visual Heritage of Polish Jews.

The Complex History of the Collection of Postwar Photographs in the Jewish Historical Institute

Lecture by Dr. Agnieszka Kajczyk (Jewish Historical Institute, Warsaw) as part of the lecture series »Living in the Land of Death. Jews in Poland immediately after the Holocaust« on Monday, 11 December 2023, 5.15 p.m. at the Dubnow Institute. Afterwards, from around 7 p.m.: Opening of the exhibition »The Determining Gaze. Images of Jewish Life in Postwar Poland«

Self-determination and violence, trauma and new beginnings, reconstruction and emigration – Jewish life in Poland immediately after the Holocaust was full of ambivalences and contradictory experiences. Places where there had been large Jewish communities before the war, were now marked by destruction, death, and emptiness. The ruined landscape of central Warsaw on the site of the former ghetto became emblematic of this destruction.

Nevertheless, Dzierżoniów and other formerly German towns in Lower Silesia witnessed the reestablishment of a notably self-determined Jewish existence for a few years after the Holocaust. Survivors and remigrants from the Soviet Union settled here, encouraged by the Polish government. At the same time, on 4 July 1946, forty Polish Jews were murdered in Kielce, around 300 km to the east, with another eighty severely injured. For fear of further violence, many Jews fled from Poland.

A photographic collection held at the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw includes many sources that reflect this ambivalence. In mid-December 2023, the exhibition “The Determining Gaze” is opening at the Dubnow Institute in Leipzig. It will show a selection of these photographs and explore their origins, voids, and effects alongside the transmission of the photographs, as well as the question of how these images continue to shape our ideas of Jewish life in postwar Poland into the present day. The colloquium will offer an insight into the historical context.


Monday, 11 December 2023, 5.15 p.m.
Dubnow-Institut, Leipzig/Stream