Country: United Kingdom
City: London
Museum/Gallery: Jewish Musem - The Photographers' Gallery
Artist: Roman Vishniac
Year: 1897-1990






26 October 2018 – 24 February 2019

Roman Vishniac holding his Rolleiflex camera. Unidentified photographer, ca. 1935–38. Gelatin silver print. © Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography. 

He has created the most extraordinary graphic document
of Jewish life before the Holocaust

Born in Russia in 1897, Roman Vishniac fled anti-Semitism in his native Russia and headed to Berlin in 1920 where his family had settled in earlier years He started taking pictures.  With time Roman Vishniac became one of the great photographers of the 20th century. An extraordinarily versatile and innovative photographer, Vishniac is best known for having created one of the most widely recognised and reproduced photographic records of Jewish life in Eastern Europe between the two World Wars.

BERLIN ca.1929
Recalcitrance, Berlin. © Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography



BERLIN, 1929- early 1930s
Interior of the Anhalter Bahnhof railway terminus near Potsdamer Platz, Berlin
© Mara Vishniac Kohn.  Courtesy International Center of Photography
On display at The Photographers’ Gallery


BERLIN early 1930s.

People behind bars, Berlin Zoo. © Mara Vishniac Kohn,
courtesy International Center of Photography



BERLIN 1930s
Window washer balancing on a ladder
. © Mara Vishniac Kohn
Courtesy International Center of Photography
On display at The Photographers’ Gallery


Vishniac’s development as a photographer coincided with the enormous political changes occurring in Germany, which he steadfastly captured in his images. They represent an unsettling visual foreboding of the growing signs of oppression, the loss of rights for Jews, the rise of Nazism in Germany, the insidious propaganda – swastika flags and military parades, which were taking over both the streets and daily life.

Vishniac’s daughter Mara posing in front of an election poster for Hindenburg and Hitler
that reads “The Marshal and the Corporal: Fight with Us for Peace and Equal Rights”, Wilmersdorf, Berlin.  © Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography.



As anti-Semitism was growing in Germany, Vishniac was commissioned by the American Jewish
Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) in Central Europe to photograph Jewish communities in Eastern Europe as part of a fund-raising drive to help support these poor communities. Between 1935 and 1938, Roman Vishniac captured thousands of photographs of Jewish communities across Eastern Europe

Sara, sitting in bed in a basement dwelling, with,stenciled flowers above her head
Warsaw, ca. 1935–37 © Mara Vishniac Kohn. Courtesy International Center of Photography. 
On display at The Photographers’ Gallery


Inside the Jewish quarter
, Bratislava, ca. 1935–38. 
© Mara Vishniac Kohn. Courtesy International Center of Photography
On display at Jewish Museum London



Isaac Street, Kazimierz, Cracow, 1938


Gelatin silver print. The wall sign announces in Hebrew the upcoming holiday of Chanukah


Ernst Kaufmann, center, and unidentified Zionist youth, 
wearing clogs while learning construction techniques in a quarry.

Werkdorp Nieuwesluis, Wieringermeer. © Mara Vishniac Kohn. 
Courtesy International Center of Photograp. On display at Jewish Museum London



Sharp eye for snapshots and portraits

Roman Vishniac statement: “These are the faces of children I embraced and kissed and loved. I cannot imagine that they are dead, that none would survive… A million and a half children among the six million… But this I knew… I wanted to save their faces, not their ashes.”

Jewish school children, Mukacevo, ca. 1935–38
© Mara Vishniac Kohn. Courtesy International Center of Photography
On display at Jewish Museum London


Girl in plaid dress,
Mukacevo, Ukraine ca. 1935–38.

Roman Vishniac_Girl-in-plaid-dress,-Mukacevo.

Boy with kindling in a basement dwelling
Krochmalna Street, Warsaw, ca. 1935–38. Gelatin silver print.
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

Roman Vishniac_pressimage_6-JML


Young Jewish Girls, Warsaw 1935
Photograph included in the book Vanished World, Photographs of Roman Vishniac. 
Mara Vishniac Kohn and Miriam Hartman Flacks, Editors (University of California)

roman vishniac_Two-friends-shyly-approach-the-photographer,-Lodz



Vishniac left Europe in 1940 and arrived in New York with his family on New Year’s Day, 1941. He continued to record the impact of World War II throughout the 1940s and 50s in particular focusing on the arrival of Jewish refugees and Holocaust survivors in the US, but also looking at other immigrant communities including Chinese Americans.

Customers waiting in line at a butcher’s counter during wartime rationing
Washington Market, New York, 1941-44 © Mara Vishniac Kohn
Courtesy International Center of Photography. On display at The Photographers’ Gallery



In 1947, he returned to Europe to document refugees and relief efforts in Jewish Displaced Persons camps and also to witness the ruins of his former hometown, Berlin.

The streets are free of brown batallions!
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography.

Roman _Vishniac_pressimage_18-JML

Holocaust survivors gathering outside a building where matzoh
is being made in preparations for the Passover holiday 
Hénonville Displaced Persons’ Camp, Picardy, France, 1947. Ink-jet print.
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography


the family of men book

In 1955, famed photographer and museum curator Edward Steichen featured several of Vishniac’s photographs in the influential book and travelling exhibition “The Family of Man” shown at the Museum of Modern Art.
Steichen later describes the importance of Vishniac’s work.”[He]…gives a last-minute look at the human beings he photographed just before the fury of Nazi brutality exterminated them. The resulting photographs are among photography’s finest documents of a time and place.”




Roman Vishniac in his daughter’s words


Curator’s Choise: Roman Vishniac
International Center of Photography, New York

Roman Vishniac-video-2


Organizers: Drawn from the Roman Vishniac Collection at the International Center of Photography, New York and curated by Maya Benton in collaboration with The Photographers’ Gallery curator, Anna Dannemann and Jewish Museum London curator, Morgan Wadsworth-Boyle, each venue will provide additional contextual material to illuminate the works on display and bring
the artist, his works and significance to the attention of UK audiences.

Sponsors: Roman Vishniac Rediscovered is organised by the International Center of Photography. It is made possible with support from Mara Vishniac Kohn, whose generosity founded the Roman
Vishniac Collection at ICP, and from the Andrew and Marina Lewin Family Foundation, Estanne and Martin Fawer, The David Berg Foundation, Righteous Persons Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Olitsky Family Foundation, the ICP Exhibitions Committee. James and Merryl Tisch, Koret Foundation, and additional anonymous donors.

Jewish Museum London
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