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Through Soviet Jewish Eyes

Photography, War, and the Holocaust

David Shneer

Publication Year: 2011

Most view the relationship of Jews to the Soviet Union through the lens of repression and silence. Focusing on an elite group of two dozen Soviet-Jewish photographers, Through Soviet Jewish Eyes presents a different picture. These artists participated in a social project they believed in and with which they were emotionally and intellectually invested-they were charged by the Stalinist state to tell the visual story of the unprecedented horror we now call the Holocaust. This passionate work tells their stories and highlights their work through their very own images-never-before-published photographs from families, collectors, and private archives.

Published by: Rutgers University Press

Contents

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pp. v-

List of Illustrations

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pp. vii-x

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xiii

This book has been in the making for nearly ten years, and along the way I have had the opportunity to work with and be supported by some amazing people. Thanks to Olga Gershenson; Gregg Drinkwater; and the two anonymous readers, who read the book cover to cover and provided incredible feedback. Olga’s close reading inspired me to think in new ways, and Gregg, my husband, made sure that all arguments flowed well. Since I...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-10

In the summer of 2002, with the air heavy and warm from days of heavy rains, I wandered into Moscow’s Union of Art Photographers, one of the few galleries in the city dedicated to photography. Once inside, I noticed that the walls were adorned with some of the best examples of Soviet war photography. Although most of the photographers’ names were unfamiliar to me at the time, I couldn’t help noticing—despite my better instincts as a...

Part One: When Photography Was Jewish

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1. How a Group of Jews from the Provinces Built Soviet Photojournalism

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pp. 13-30

Shortly after the Russian revolutions of 1917 that tossed out the czars and brought in Communist commissars, the leading Bolshevik, Vladimir Lenin, said that the camera, as much as the gun, was an important weapon the Bolsheviks had at their fingertips to secure the revolution. He recognized the power of images and the modern media to transform people and society and therefore gave photography...

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2. Seeing Red: Jewish Photographers, The Rise of the Second Generation, and Soviet Photojournalism of the 1930s

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pp. 31-59

The first generation of Soviet photographers, like other artists, writers, and cultural activists, wrestled with questions of aesthetics, politics, and ideology throughout the 1920s. Was socialist art created by the working classes? Was it simple and accessible to the working classes? Was it meant to throw off the aesthetics of the past and usher in an entirely new visual language? What role...

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3. Soviet Jews on Both Sides of the Camera: The Photographs of Jewish Agricultural Colonies and Birobidzhan

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pp. 60-83

From the first days following the Bolshevik Revolution, Soviet leaders invested significant resources not only in documenting the diversity of the Soviet empire, but also in supporting the cultural and national development of the Soviet Union’s many ethnic minorities. As part of its revolutionary ethos, the state launched a campaign...

Part Two: Soviet Jewish Photographers Confront World War II and the Holocaust

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4. “Without the Newspaper,We Are Defenseless!”: Photojournalists and the War

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pp. 87-139

Having spent most of the 1930s photographing the development of Stalinism, Soviet photojournalists had little experience photographing war and the violent destruction of society. Several had covered battles against Japanese forces, who had occupied Manchuria in the late 1930s. In Europe, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact,...

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5. Picturing Grief, Documenting Crimes: Soviet Holocaust Photography

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pp. 140-183

Early in the war, operating under the assumption that they would win, the Allied powers began discussing how to deal with the Nazis’ war crimes against Europe. In June 1942, with pressure coming from interest groups and occupied nations that the Allies make formal declarations about potential punishment, Winston Churchill...

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6. When Jews Talked to Jews: Wartime Soviet Yiddish Culture and Soviet Photographers' Jewishness

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pp. 184-104

Hitler’s war against the Jews of Europe and the Soviet Union was a moment when Soviet Jewish photographers and all Soviet Jews were most radically integrated into the heroic Soviet nation as Red Army soldiers and simultaneously singled out as racially inferior victims. This tension between the pull to universalism and the stark reminders of particularism shaped the world of these photographers...

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7. From Photojournalism to Icons of War and the Holocaust: Photographs and Photographers After the War

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pp. 205-231

The war proved to be the turning point for the careers of Soviet Jewish photographers, many of whom made it to the Reichstag in May 1945 (Fig. 7.1).1 Some first-generation photographers, those whose significant work came out in the 1920s and 1930s, saw the peak of their careers already behind them. Others in the second generation,...

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Epilogue: Soviet Jewish Photographers as War Heroes

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pp. 233-236

In the same year, the tide of the war turned in favor of the Red Army at Stalingrad. But the political climate for Jews began changing as David Ortenberg and other Jewish media makers lost their jobs in a growing campaign to de-judaize Soviet journalism, photography, and film. If in the early years of the war, Jews were included as both a heroic and victimized Soviet ethnicity,...

Notes

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pp. 237-268

Index

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pp. 269-283

About the Author

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pp. 184-


E-ISBN-13: 9780813550190
E-ISBN-10: 081355019X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813548845
Print-ISBN-10: 0813548845

Page Count: 304
Illustrations: 91 illustrations
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Jewish Cultures of the World
Series Editor Byline: Matti Bunzl and Jeffrey Shandler

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Photographers -- Soviet Union -- History.
  • Photographers -- Soviet Union -- Biography.
  • Jewish photographers -- Soviet Union -- History.
  • War photography -- Europe, Eastern.
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Europe, Eastern -- Pictorial works.
  • Jewish photographers -- Soviet Union -- Biography.
  • Documentary photography -- Soviet Union -- History.
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Photography.
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