September 22, 2019 – January 12, 2020
Special Exhibitions Gallery
“I buried my negatives in the ground in order that there should be some record of our tragedy.” — Henryk Ross
Imprisoned in Europe’s second-largest ghetto in 1940, Ross was assigned to take official identification photographs for the Nazi-controlled Jewish Administration. The Nazis forbade him from taking any unofficial images, under penalty of death. Yet against the explicit directives, Ross put his life in jeopardy to document history, sneaking his camera through cracks in doors and underneath his overcoat.
As the final residents of the ghetto were deported en masse to concentration camps, Ross stayed behind to clean up and bury his precious negatives. When the ghetto was liberated in 1945, Ross was able to excavate and recover about half of the buried negatives – one of the largest visual records of its kind to survive the Holocaust.
As its centerpiece, Memory Unearthed presents an album of contact prints created by Ross; a powerful summation of his memories that captures his personal narrative. Artifacts, including Ross’ identity card and ghetto notices, accompany the haunting images. There is also video footage of the trial of Adolf Eichmann, where Ross’ images and testimony were used as evidence of Nazi war crimes.
All photos courtesy of the Art Gallery of Ontario, Gift of the Archive of Modern Conflict.