Valerie HébertSep 7, 2023
Framing the Holocaust
Photographs of a Mass Shooting in Latvia, 1941
University of Wisconsin Press 2023
Framing the Holocaust: Photographs of a Mass Shooting in Latvia, 1941 (University of Wisconsin Press, 2023), edited by Valerie Hébert, compiles essays on the meaning of twelve photographs of a terrible atrocity. In December 1941, German police and their local collaborators shot 2,749 Jews at the beach in Sķēde, near Liepāja, Latvia. Twelve photographs were taken at the scene. These now-infamous images show people in extreme distress, sometimes without clothing. Some capture the very moments when women and children confronted their imminent deaths, while others show their dead bodies. They are nearly unbearable to look at -- so why should we?
Framing the Holocaust offers a multidimensional response to this question. While photographs are central to our memory of modern historical events, they often inhabit an ambivalent intellectual space. What separates the sincere desire to understand from voyeuristic curiosity? Comprehending atrocity photographs requires viewers to place themselves in the very positions of the perpetrators who took the images. When we engage with these photographs, do we risk replicating the original violence? In this tightly organized book, scholars of history, photography, language, gender, photojournalism, and pedagogy examine the images of the Sķēde atrocity along with other difficult images, giving historical, political, and ethical depth to the acts of looking and interpreting. With a foreword by Edward Anders, who narrowly escaped the December 1941 shooting, Framing the Holocaust represents an original approach to an iconic series of Holocaust photographs. This book contributes to compelling debates in the emerging field of visual history, including the challenges and responsibilities of using photographs to teach about atrocity.
Link Mentioned in the Episode: Digitized Mizrakh Yidisher Historisher Arkhiv archive (YIVO Institute for Jewish Research)
Hallel Yadin is an archivist and special projects manager at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research.