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Yad Vashem Photographs from the Warsaw Ghetto

Workshops in the Warsaw Ghetto

Jews working in a factory that produced products made from leatherJews working in a factory that produced products made from leather
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In the fall of 1941, creative activity within the ghetto had increased significantly, particularly following the arrival of several German entrepreneurs who hoped to exploit the cheap Jewish labor force that was available there. Alongside the German-owned factories that were established in the heart of the ghetto by entrepreneurs, Jewish workshops also increased their production and they began to supply their products to Polish companies, and even to the Wehrmacht. A “conglomerate” of Jewish workshops was known as the Judische Produktionsgesellschaft GMBH (Jewish Production Company, Ltd.). The Jews preferred working in these factories because of the humane way in which they were treated there. It seems that in late 1941, someone in the ghetto administration decided to photograph and immortalize the creative work being done in the ghetto. It is quite probable that the same photographer who worked with Foto Forbert was once again charged with the task, and he took at least 218 photographs, which were also mounted on cardboard sheets. These photos were never placed in an album and it isn’t known whether they were meant to be seen by the Germans or by someone else. After the war they found their way to a private owner in Poland, and in 1990 they were handed over to Yad Vashem through the Israeli Ambassador in Warsaw.

As in the previous collection, this collection clearly indicates the intention of the person who sponsored the photographs to convey a sense of efficiency and creativity. Although the locations that were photographed are not inviting, they depict activity rather than suffering. Furthermore, the collection contains photos that serve as a kind of catalogue of the various products produced in the ghetto. There is a large variety, and it includes kitchen utensils, toys, kettles, plumbing equipment, decorations for the home, and German military uniforms. Next to some of the photos we find the caption “Judische Produktion GMBH,” as if in an effort to emphasize the point that the work had been done in factories that were centrally and independently owned and operated by Jews.

It is important to note here that this phenomenon of depicting efficiency and creativity is not unique to the Warsaw ghetto. The Judenrat in the Lodz ghetto produced several impressive photo albums for the Germans, in order to show them that they shouldn’t evict the Jews from the ghetto and that it would be best to leave things in the hands of the Judenrat. In any event, we can see this type of album as a kind of public relations tool aimed at helping the Jews survive.