Provenance of Holocaust photography?
January 11, 2009 5:36 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone know the origin or a way to determine the origin and individuals in this Holocaust-era photograph?

I've seen this terribly tragic photo in lots of places, and I'm wondering if there's any way to learn more about the circumstances, and who is in it. I'm reading The Lost right now, which is about a man trying to learn about family members lost in the Holocaust, and it inspired me to see if I can find anything out about the individuals in this photo. I know nothing about the Web site below, but the photo is found in many places. I used and found a dozen or so other sites hosting the image, but nothing that leads me to a source.
posted by pallen123 to Human Relations (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Call the reference desk of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Library.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:47 PM on January 11, 2009

And talk to MeFite arco and ask him. He works there.
posted by jessamyn at 5:50 PM on January 11, 2009

Best answer: It is believed to be from Ivangorod, Ukraine. (click for an uncropped version)

From Wikimedia Commons:
Executions of Kiev Jews by German army mobile killing units (Einsatzgruppen) near Ivangorod Ukraine. The photo was mailed from the Eastern Front to Germany and intercepted at a Warsaw post office by a member of the Polish resistance named Jerzy Tomaszewski. The original German inscription on the back of the photograph reads, "Ukraine 1942, Jewish Action [operation], Ivangorod."
posted by joe vrrr at 6:02 PM on January 11, 2009

Actually, I've been wondering about the source of that particular photo myself, for a long time.

Would you mind posting your results here, or at least dropping me a MeFiMail if and when you get the answer? Thanks!
posted by AngerBoy at 6:22 PM on January 11, 2009

Uh, I interned there like 11 years ago and I met arco. He knows everything you'll need to know.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:04 PM on January 11, 2009

This image was pointed out and discussed (by Doc) in a museum during the documentary Surfwise - the life of Dorian "Doc" Paskowitz and his family.

I just scrubbed through Surfwise on Netflix. There's a very large copy of the image you've noted on display at the Simon Wiesenthal Center at Los Angeles.
posted by ezekieldas at 9:34 PM on January 11, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for all your help and suggestions. Below is the information I've obtained so far. Many thanks to arco from the U.S. Holocaust Museum.

Beneath arco's comments is a response from Yad Vashem in Jerusalem regarding Avigdor Efron's comments.

I'm still digging for more info. Anyone else interested? Please join me in the digging!

Clearly there's a small child in the woman's arms, and I think there's a chance we could find a list of victims (via Yad Vashem or somewhere else) that includes a 4-6 year old, perhaps a mother, and others, killed outside a concentration camp, in 1942 -- assuming the date on the photo itself is correct.

Ezekieldas, is there anything informative mentioned in Surfwise? Thanks.


"Thanks for your question. This image is part of the United States Holocaust Museum’s Photo Archives, and here is the caption from their database:

“German police take aim at Jews from Ivangorod who have just finished preparing their own grave. This photo was found by members of the Polish Home Army enclosed in a letter written by a German soldier. Members of the Home Army monitored mail from the east that passed through the central post office in Warsaw. Letters and photographs of interest were copied and sent on to the Polish government-in-exile. The German inscription on the back of the original photo read: ‘Ukraine 1942, Jewish Aktion, Ivangorod.’”

However, there is a note in the database that reads: “Avigdor Efron, former head of the Yad Vashem Educational Center, has argued that this photo is [from] Slonim [Belarus] and that the man in uniform is a Latvian, Eugeni Lucis.”

According to a few of the sources I checked, there are several towns by the name of Ivangorod in Ukraine, and it may not be possible to determine which town the photograph inscription was referring to."


From Yad Vashem...

"We don’t know Avigdor Efron, but at his time all info about this photo was pure speculation. I guess his narrative reflected one of the many narratives existing at his time regarding this photo.

Since the USHMM hold a copy of what looks like the original photo, and since they conducted a serious research about this photo, we tend to view their version as the most reliable one. My own humble input is that the uniformed men are definitely members of the German “Green Police”"
posted by pallen123 at 6:15 AM on January 15, 2009

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