Monday, April 04, 2016

HOLOCAUST - History in Focus

"Seeing Holocaust survivors’ stories in the books they left behind" PBS NewsHour 3/30/2016


SUMMARY:  In 1942, Jews from then-Czechoslovakia were taken to the Auschwitz death camp.  A window into their lives before the deportation can be found in a new book, "Last Folio," and a traveling exhibition at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington.  Jeffrey Brown examines how photographer Yuri Dojc rediscovered their story, and his own.

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  Finally tonight: Imagine finding a library from the 1940s, a window into the time before the deportation of some 70,000 Jews from what was then Czechoslovakia.

Jeffrey Brown reports on a photographer who learned something about himself in the decades-old bookshelves.

JEFFREY BROWN (NewsHour):  At first glance, you might wonder:  What is this?  What am I looking at?  Then it hits you:  These are books, fragments of books, in various states of decay.

They were photographed where they’d been left, an abandoned schoolhouse in the town of Bardejov, Slovakia.

Yuri Dojc, a successful art and commercial photographer who’s lived in Canada since 1968, returned to his native country after his father’s death, to learn more about his own Jewish roots.

He came upon the schoolhouse almost by accident, when a man he’d met told Dojc there was something he must see.

YURI DOJC, Photographer:  And then he take us across the square.  He opened this door.  And we were just stunned.

JEFFREY BROWN:  You had no idea what you were walking into?

YURI DOJC:  I had no clue.  But I was stunned by the beauty of decaying books.  I wasn’t thinking about history at that moment.  It’s the visual effect of these old books was so beautiful.

JEFFREY BROWN:  Beautiful, but horrible at the same time, as the sense of history set in, for this was a Jewish schoolhouse, left as it had been in 1942, as Jews were being rounded up and taken by train to the concentration camp at Auschwitz.

The story is told in a documentary Dojc worked on with another emigre from the former Czechoslovakia, Katya Krausova.

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