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Modernism in the Ghetto: Propaganda in the Graphic Design of Documents Produced by the Łódź Judenrat

Hosted By: YIVO

Unlike most of those who created them, a large number of documents produced by the Łódź Ghetto Judenrat survived the Holocaust. Among them is a unique collection of albums and posters made by Jewish artists employed in the Łódź Ghetto Graphics Office—a unit specially set up in May 1940 to provide visual presentations of statistical data produced by the Ghetto’s Statistical Department. The compositions on the album pages and boards, which engage modernist photo-collage techniques, use their layouts to connect text, graphs, and diagrams with photo-montages of pictures taken in the ghetto. The narrative and form of these Judenrat’s official visual documents resembled industrial advertising and propaganda. They provide a positive yet false image of the conditions in the ghetto, a vision that was created not only for a contemporary audience, but also with the future recipients in mind – historians, who would evaluate the actions of the ghetto’s administrators after the war.

In this lecture, Paweł Michna will uncover the artistic contexts of these unique and little known documents, of which the preeminent specimens are held in the YIVO Archives. He will analyze the role played by those documents in Łódź ghetto politics and how they were influenced by modern artistic movements such as the constructivist avant-garde. Also to be addressed will be the dissonance of a contemporary reading of documents created during the Holocaust but which contain no indication of

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