Officially, former Polish press photojournalist Henryk Ross was forced to work by the Nazi regime as a bureaucratic photographer for the Jewish Administration’s statistics department. He took photographs for Jewish identification cards, as well as images used as propaganda for the Lodz Ghetto. Ross, a Jew, was one of at least 160,000 people held in the Lodz Ghetto in Poland, second only to the Warsaw Ghetto in German-occupied Europe.
Unofficially, at great personal danger, Ross documented the cruel truth of life under Nazi rule. In the four-year existence of the Lodz Ghetto, a quarter of its prisoners died of starvation. In 1942, nearly 20,000 were deported to the death camp of Chelmno; in 1944, 70,000 were sent to Auschwitz.
Ross buried his negatives in 1944 in attempt to preserve the historical record of what had happened in Lodz. As one of the mere 877 recorded survivors of the ghetto, Ross returned for the negatives after Lodz’s liberation, discovering that more than half of the original 6,000 remained intact.
An exhibition, “Memory Unearthed,” organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario, presents more than 200 of Ross’s photographs. It is on view in Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts from March 25 to July 30.