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Jeffrey Wolin was born in the United States and educated at Kenyon College and The Rochester Institute of Technology. He isthe Ruth N. Halls Professor of Photography at Indiana University and his photographs have appeared in scores of magazines and professional journals.Wolin's series of portraits of Holocaust survivors, Written in Memory: Portraits of the Holocaust, was published by Chronicle Books in 1997.
My interest in the Holocaust dates back to my childhood in the 1950s in a Jewish neighborhood in suburban New York. The war was still fresh in my parents' minds. My grandparents, immigrants from Eastern Europe, would go ballistic whenever talk would turn to Hitler and the Germans. My grandfather was unable to find out exactly what happened to his family, but they did not survive the war. I have spent the past two years engaged in my project with Holocaust survivors. Following an interview, I photograph them. I try to find elements in their stories that can be expressed visually in the portrait. I am fully aware that no one who did not directly experience the Holocaust can truly understand the depths of horror that Jews in Europe experienced at the hands of the Nazis. Nevertheless, it is my hope that by providing a face with an accompanying story of great power, an audience can empathize with the survivors.
Maria Spizer, b. 1904, Gyor, Hungary, 1993 Photograph, toned gsp with silver marker
All photos with story text from interviews with Holocaust survivors living in the Chicago area.
Josef Neumann, b. 1916, Snina, Slovakia, 1993 Photograph, toned gsp with silver marker
Neumann points to his Auschwitz number and tells the story of his survival in his inflected English. Auschwitz was the only camp that tatooed people. These were "cremation" numbers .
Henryk Werdinger, b. 1923, Borgslaw, Poland, 1993 Photograph, toned gsp with silver marker
Werdinger survived the quarry at Mauthausen Camp, near Linz, Austria. The photo of him now, against the Pacific Ocean, does not reveal the horrors he went through.
Jadzia Strykowska, b. 1924, Tomaszow-Maz, Poland, 1993 Photograph, toned gsp with silver marker
Jadzia survived the ghetto and camps carrying with her small photos of her family. She hid these photos in a capsule in her body cavities, and miraculously, both she and the photos survived.
Rena Grynbalt, b. 1926, Warsaw, Poland, 1993 Photograph, toned gsp with silver marker
Rena had a baby boy who was seized with a cousin during a raid on the ghetto. The baby disappeared. As Rena holds his photo, she wonders if he might still be alive. "...maybe he is alive; maybe he lives next door." This photo reflects on all issues of lost children which is a subject that goes far beyond the Holocaust.
Page updated 2013.