Last night, just one floor up from where students were setting up for Seder in the Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale, a photography exhibition of Jewish ghettos during the Nazi regime provided an antithesis to the celebratory mood downstairs.
The show, titled “Images of Displacement I,” features 28 black-and-white photographs taken by Zvi Kadushin, one of the few Jewish photographers during the World War II. The images are reproductions from the archives of the Beit Hatfutsot Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv. The exhibition is part of a colloquium on Kadushin’s work at the center, which is set to take place on April 28 and will be led by the curator of the exhibition, Noam Gal GRD ’14.
“I think it’s amazing for [the Holocaust] to be remembered through photography,” said Sabrina Cook ’13, who was helping to set up for Seder downstairs from the gallery. “It’s different seeing it than just hearing about it.”
Born to a Jewish family in Roseiniai, Lithuania, in 1910, Kadushin moved to the nearby Jewish ghetto of Kovno as a teenager. As an adult, he was assigned to work as an engineer for the German officers in Kovno, where he learned how to take pictures to develop film.
The photos in the exhibition were taken in the 1940s in the Kovno ghetto during Nazi rule. They are regarded as one of the first efforts to truly capture the Jewish plight during the war, according a Slifka Center biography of Kadushin. Using a rudimentary camera that he snuck under his jacket into the ghettos — which had outlawed cameras — Kadushin stealthily snapped shots through his buttonhole. These photos were first displayed in an exhibit in 1941 in Landsberg, Germany, and were later archived in The Beit Hatfutsot Museum in 1945.
The images range from an improvised fence around a garden, capturing ordinary scenes of life in the ghetto, to a special children’s parade to celebrate freedom upon their release from their camp. Kadushin includes a self-potrait, shot by an unknown photographer, showing a stern expression on Kadushin’s face. The photos depict powerful scenes and yet none are larger than an 8-by-11-inch sheet of paper.
Two students interviewed agreed, noting the interesting juxtaposition between the nurturing environment of the center and the serious content of the photography.
“I really like the contrast between life continuing and destruction,” said Dane Roth, who works as a receptionist at the front desk of the center. “It shows a glimpse of the strength of the people in the ghetto.”
The exhibition will be on display until May 5.