Sink in Barracks Washroom, Auschwitz/Birkenau, Poland ©2001
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.

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.