Dieses Farbdia zeigt die Ankunft eines Deportationszugs aus Deutschland im Ghetto Lodz, Oktober / November 1941

Colour slides from the German ghetto administration in Lodz

In 1987 almost 500 colour slides from the ghetto in Lodz turned up in an antiquarian bookshop in Vienna. We acquired these slides and made them the focal point of an exhibition in 1990 on the history of that ghetto; it was the first ghetto of its kind in Poland during the German occupation.

Economy and Forced Labour in the Ghetto

The photographer’s main focus were the commercial businesses in the ghetto which produced goods for the Wehrmacht, for German private companies and for the ghetto’s own supplies. The series of slides was probably made with the aim of acquiring production contracts for the businesses in the ghetto. The title of the exhibition "Unser einziger Weg ist Arbeit" points to the significance of forced labour for the survival of the ghetto; it was the motto of Chaim Rumkowski, head of the Jewish self-administration.

Our research revealed that the photographs were taken between 1940 and 1944 by the financial manager of the German ghetto administration, Walter Genewein, who was from Salzburg. They show the borders of the ghetto from inside and outside, a visit to the ghetto by Heinrich Himmler and other high-ranking Nazi officials, the leading employees of the German ghetto administration and the Jewish "self-administration" of the ghetto. Genewein also photographed street scenes and individual inhabitants of the ghetto as well as the various organisations there.

Hans Biebow, head of the German ghetto administration, to Werner Ventzki, Lord Mayor of Lodz, 19.4.1943

...it is no longer possible to vindicate the nourishment of the Jews in its current form because otherwise it would result in a drop in efficiency, to the disadvantage of the Wehrmacht.

Reactions of Contemporary Witnesses

Witnesses who survived the ghetto in Lodz reacted with alienation and partly shocked to these colour slides. The gaze of the photographer in question on the commercial exploitation and annihilation of the ghetto inhabitants differed so much from their own inner images and memories. Genewein’s photographs at most just hint at the hunger, disease, deportation and death which coloured everyday life in the ghetto.

126 of those colour slides were published in the catalogue to the exhibition ("Unser einziger Weg is Arbeit". Das Getto in Lodz 1940-1944. Vienna: Löcker, 1990). The colour slides also formed the basis for the 1998 documentary film Fotoamator / Photographers y the Polish director Dariusz Jablonski, which was awarded the Adolf Grimme Prize, among others.

Here you find and overview of all color slides and a description.