Secretly Photographing the Holocaust: Rare Photos Taken by a Jewish Photographer That Show Daily Life in the Lodz Ghetto

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Mendel Grossman was born in Staszów, Poland on 27 June 1913. After the occupation of Poland by the German Army in September 1939, he joined the underground in the town.

Forced to live in the Lodz ghetto he used his position in the statistics department to obtain the material needed to take photographs. By hiding his camera in his raincoat, Grossman was able to take secret photographs of scenes in the ghetto. He took these photographs at great risk to his life, not only because the Gestapo suspected him, but also because of his weak heart. Some of his photographs assisted people in identifying the graves of their loved ones.

Mendel Grossman’s negatives are now the prepared documentation of the Holocaust. Grossman distributed many of his photographs; those he was unable to distribute, he tried to hide. In August 1944, shortly before the final liquidation of the Litzmannstadt Ghetto, he hid ca. 10,000 negatives showing scenes from the Ghetto. In the ghetto, he lived together with his family at 55 Marynarskiej street.

Mendel Grossman, the ghetto photographer, with a friend.

Mendel Grossman taking photographs in the ghetto.

The photographer Mendel Grossman in his laboratory.

Grossman continued to take photographs after he was deported to the Konigs Wusterhausen labor camp. He stayed there until 16 April 1945. On 30 April 1945, he was shot by Nazis during a forced death march, still holding on to his camera.

After the war his hidden negatives were discovered. Grossman’s sister found some of his hidden photographs and took them to Israel, but they were mostly lost in the Israeli war of Independence. Other photos taken by Grossman were found by one of his friends, Nachman (Natek) Zonabend; these photographs are now located in the Museum of Holocaust and Resistance at the Ghetto Fighters House in Kibbutz Lohamei Hagetaot, Israel, as well as Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.

“Scheisskommando” workers pulling a cart of sewage.

A group of youngsters in the ghetto, one of whom has a Jewish Badge on his back.

People waiting in line for food in the ghetto.

Mendel Grossman’s brother-in-law.

A crossing between two parts of the ghetto, 1941.

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