“Having an official camera, I was able to capture all the tragic period in the Lodz Ghetto. I did it knowing that if I were caught my family and I would be tortured and killed.” —Henryk Ross

Henryk Ross (1910–1991) worked as a photographer for the Polish press before World War II began. Born in Warsaw, he was living in Lodz in 1940 when the Nazis confined all Jews to the ghetto.

In the Lodz Ghetto, Ross was made a photographer for the Jewish Administration’s Statistics Department, which required him to produce propaganda images. He took identification photographs of ghetto residents, developed photo essays of ghetto workshops, and documented unidentified corpses and demolished buildings. Although Ross was forbidden to take unofficial photographs, he often did so, risking his life to record the horrors of ghetto life. Ross captured searing images of the trauma of the Holocaust—families starving and painful deportations—but also consoling moments, such as children playing, dinner parties, and even celebrations. Ross’s documentation of the ghetto reveals the everyday life and struggle of a community under incomprehensible circumstances.

Ross and his wife, Stefania—whom he married in the ghetto in 1941—were among the remaining Lodz Ghetto residents liberated in 1945. After the war, Ross operated a photography business in Lodz, then moved to Israel with his family. In 1961, he testified at the trial of Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann, an experience that inspired him to share his images of the Lodz Ghetto with the public.

The Museum’s new exhibition Memory Unearthed: The Lodz Ghetto Photographs of Henryk Ross displays 200 of the photographs Ross took inside the Lodz Ghetto.

Photo credit: Art Gallery of Ontario. Gift from Archive of Modern Conflict, 2007. © 2015 Art Gallery of Ontario