Documenting A Whole World

This post was first published as “Slideshow: Remembering Jewish Life in Poland” on The Arty Semite blog of the Forward.

Courtesy of Centropa

A decade ago, American journalist and photographer Edward Serotta decided to collect the life stories and family photographs of every elderly Jew living in Central Europe that he could find. “I wanted to document a whole world,” he said.

It was a world that few Jews or Europeans knew about. Jews were unaware that a considerable number of Holocaust survivors chose to remain in Central Europe after World War II, while Europeans knew little about Jewish life and Jewish contributions to European society in the early part of the 20th century.

“Jewish Witness to a Polish Century: Pictures and Stories from the Centropa Interviews 2001-2008,” an exhibition now on view at Beth Tfiloh School in Baltimore, following exhibits in Northern California and before stops in Atlanta, New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Los Angeles, is just one facet of Serotta’s work. Centropa, the organization he founded and which is based in Vienna, bills itself as an “interactive database of Jewish memory.” Its primary focus is educational, drawing on its collection of 1,200 transcribed interviews with elderly Jews in 15 countries, as well as 22,000 digitized family photographs.

Click here to read more, view a sideshow from ‘Jewish Witness to a Polish Century,’ and view one of Centropa’s films.

© 2011 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

 

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