This first segment of a long-term photographic project began
in August/September 2001 and was inspired by my first visit to these places
in Summer 1999. It features afterimages of the holocaust, and is primarily
concerned with Terezin / Theresienstadt in the Czech
Republic, and its link with the Czech Family Camp in Auschwitz/Birkenau
(Poland). The images of interiors and exteriors - buildings, train stations,
warehouses, barracks, prisons, town squares - focus on what remains, a living
history. My intention is to explore how these places are seen, treated and
remembered - their collective identities. In addition, I traveled to various
cities, towns and villages within the Czech Republic where Czech Jews were
removed and documented what is left of these Jewish communities. I wanted
to give two perspectives: of the past (through specific individuals and
their particular memories to document the destruction of a culture and people),
coupling this with a view of the present (through an examination of modern-day
communities that have reinvented and sustained themselves through world
wars and the communist era). I worked alongside Mr. Pavel Stransky from
Prague, a holocaust survivor (of both Theresienstadt and Auschwitz), and
his grandson Matej Stransky, a young photojournalist.
Sink in Barracks Washroom, Auschwitz/Birkenau,
The fortress town
of Terezin, located 35 km northwest of Prague, was built in the late 18th
c. and consisted of barracks, armories and underground storerooms. In
November 1941, the Germans established the Theresienstadt ghetto in the
old fortress town, and the "small fortress" located to the northeast served
as an internment camp and Gestapo prison for political prisoners, members
of the resistance and some Jews from the ghetto. Theresienstadt served
an important propaganda function for the Nazis: the stated purpose for
the deportation of Jews was their "resettlement to the east" where they
would be employed in forced labor projects. Elderly Jews were sent to
this supposed "retirement" ghetto since they obviously couldn't work.
This was a ruse, as the ghetto was in reality a collection center for
deportations to Auschwitz and other camps further east. In the ghetto
itself, tens of thousands of people died, mostly from starvation or disease.
In 1944, the International Red Cross was allowed to visit, but an elaborate
hoax was carried out to hide the conditions of the ghetto. Theresienstadt
was liberated in May 1945.
Auschwitz was a concentration,
forced labor and extermination camp in southern Poland. Auschwitz/Birkenau
began operating as an extermination camp in March 1942. New arrivals underwent
selection upon arrival, and those deemed fit were kept to do forced labor,
while the majority of deportees were sent directly to the gas chambers.
At one point there were four gas chambers using Zyklon B (cyanide), and
gassing went on until November 1944. Trains brought Jews daily from nearly
every Nazi-ocuppied country. The estimates of victims of this camp number
more than 1.1 million Jews, approx. 70-75,000 Poles, about 21,000 Roma
(gypsies) and 15,000 Russian POWs.