In honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day, Yom Hashoah

In honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day, Yom Hashoah, a recent discovery from the Roman Vishniac Archive and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Roman Vishniac, Chaim Simcha Mechlowitz, farmer and tanner, Vysni Apsa, ca. 1935–38

©Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

This portrait of a Jewish farmer in the remote Carpathian village of Vysni Apsa, ca. 1935-38, was included in Roman Vishniac’s seminal publication, A Vanished World, 1983, and is one of his most well known images. Following the publication, the farmer’s daughter identified him as Chaim Simcha Mechlowitz.

Roman Vishniac, Chaim Simcha Mechlowitz and a farmer tilling fields, Vysni Apsa, ca. 1935–38

Roman Vishniac, Chaim Simcha Mechlowitz, farmer and tanner, Vysni Apsa, ca. 1935–38

©Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

In 1941 Mechlowitz and his family were expelled from their home and forced to wander through the Carpathian mountain region searching for refuge. They eventually returned to Apsa, where Mechlowitz’s wife died of pneumonia; he remarried later that year. In March 1944 Germany seized control of Hungary and began transporting the Jewish population, including Mechlowitz, his wife, and eight of their children, to Auschwitz. Mechlowitz and his wife, and all but one of the children, perished at Auschwitz.

Four of Mechlowitz’s older children survived the war. His granddaughter, Lisa, recently donated family photographs of her grandfather and his family, made in the same years that Vishniac took his iconic images of the farmer, to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in Washington, DC. She also shared the family story.

Unidentified Photographer, Chaim Simcha and Etel Mechlowitz, with their ten children and a niece, 1935

Unidentified Photographer, Chaim Simcha and Etel Mechlowitz, and six of their children, ca. 1941–42

Roman Vishniac, Chaim Simcha Mechlowitz, farmer and tanner, Vysni Apsa, ca. 1935–38

©Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

While war was raging in Europe, Vishniac’s portrait of Mechlowitz was included in an early 1944 exhibition of Vishniac’s work, Pictures of Jewish Life in Prewar Poland, at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in New York. Mounted in an effort to raise awareness for the plight of Eastern European Jews, the exhibition was on display as the Jewish communities Vishniac so poignantly portrayed, including the village of Vysni Apsa, were being annihilated in the final years of the Holocaust.

Working in collaboration with the USHMM to develop a shared digital database of Vishniac’s images, the Vishniac Archive at ICP now has records of Mechlowitz’s family history and family photographs, as well as the stories and records of dozens of people whom Vishniac photographed.

On this Holocaust Remembrance Day, Yom Hashoah, we take a moment to honor the memory of Chaim Simcha Mechlowitz, his family, and all those who perished in the Holocaust.

Maya Benton, Adjunct Curator, ICP

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Fans in a Flashbulb and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s