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Illinois Holocaust Museum opens exhibition on Soviet Jewish photography during WWII

The exhibition reveals a rarely seen perspective of World War II through the lens of the most important Soviet Jewish photojournalists.

TSJE 200 image

The Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center has announced the Midwest premiere of Through Soviet Jewish Eyes: Photography, War, and the Holocaust, a photographic exhibition that reveals a rarely seen perspective of World War II through the lens of the most important Soviet Jewish photojournalists. In order to reach Chicagoland’s significant Russian-speaking community, the Illinois Holocaust Museum will be the first museum in the world to present the entire exhibition with Russian translation.

Based on the award-winning book “Through Soviet Jewish Eyes,” written by curator David Shneer, the exhibition presents more than 60 photographs that span the Nazi-Soviet war, from June 22, 1941 until Victory Day on May 9, 1945. The photographs range from large-scale, dramatic prints in which the fine line between art and photojournalism is blurred, to intimate-scaled vintage prints that compel a close reading of the images.

Through Soviet Jewish Eyes shows us that by looking through the camera lenses of liberator-photographers in the Soviet Union, we see another chilling image of the Holocaust—one made up of prosaic, intimate landscapes and emptiness that genocide leaves behind,” said Shneer.

The Russian-American community is an integral part of the World War II story:

  • 62% of World War II survivors in the Chicago-area were born in the former Soviet Union
  • The Russian-American population in the United States is estimated at nearly 2.9 million people
  • 464,000 plus Russian-Americans live in Illinois
  • 40,000 Russian speaking Jews reside in the Chicagoland area

“This exhibition which presents the Soviet Jewish experience of the Holocaust is a unique opportunity not only for our large Russian speaking Jewish population to explore their dual identity, but for people of all backgrounds to recognize the efforts and extend gratitude to those who fought so valiantly,” said Michael Polsky, presenting sponsor of the exhibition and Invenergy CEO.

World War II was one of the most documented global conflicts, yet western audiences know little about the Soviet Jewish photojournalists who captured some of the most riveting images of the war in the former Soviet Union. These wartime photographers were the first to witness Nazi atrocities from the liberator’s perspective, three years before Americans arrived at concentration camps like Buchenwald and Dachau.

“We feel honored to be the first museum in the Midwest to present the works of photographers including Evgenii Khaldei, Georgii Zelma, and Dmitrii Baltermants,” said Arielle Weininger, Museum Chief Curator of Collections and Exhibitions. “These brave liberators, charged by the Stalinist state to tell the visual story of the unprecedented horror we now call the Holocaust, merged documentary photography with avant-garde sensibilities to create works that had a profound influence on 20th century art and beyond.”

The exhibition opening event and book signing will take place at the Illinois Holocaust Museum at 2 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 22, and will feature curator and author David Shneer, Director of the Program in Jewish Studies at theUniversity of Colorado, Boulder, with special remarks by Michael Polsky, President and CEO of Invenergy and presenting sponsor of the exhibition. The event is free with Museum admission, and reservations are required at tsje.eventbrite.com. In honor of Holocaust survivors and World War II veterans, the Museum is pleased to offer them free admission to visit the exhibition. To view other exhibition related programming, visit http://www.ilholocaustmuseum.org/pages/exhibitions/special-exhibitions.  



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