A Ghetto named Baluty

“A Ghetto named Baluty” is remarkable documentary about the poorest district in Lodz, my hometown. Why? It’s not only the travel back in time, but also a great reference to current situation of the inhabitants of the district: Baluty was always the shelter for marginalized people: the criminals, the poor, the outlaws. During the II WW it became a ghetto for the Jewish population. Now it’s the asylum for those who are forced to live on the edge of the System. The synopsis of the film explains it best:

“These same homes and houses, these same streets where many years ago Jews spent every moment fighting for survival, are today inhabited by new residents. Before World War II, Baluty was a feared crime-ridden neighbourhood. Immediately after occupying Poland, the Nazis established a Jewish ghetto here, which housed 200,000 Jews waiting for their death. After the autumn of 1941, they were joined by Jews from five Czech transports. Life in the poor, working-class district of the industrial town of Lodz is marked by poverty, alcohol and unemployment. Baluty then and Baluty now have much in common. Images from the past and present of this stigmatised place are brought together by interviews with the area’s original and current inhabitants and reporter Henryk Ross’s unique photographs from the distant past.

On his way to Lodz, director Pavel Štingl ran into photographer Karel Cudlín, whose photographs created during filming make up this accompanying exhibit. By screening the film together with the exhibition, we have created a unique project in which Cudlín’s contemporary photographs hold up a mirror to Ross’s wartime images used in the film.”

Film refers also to the photos of Henryk Ross (1910-91), a Jewish press photographer in Poland before World War II. Incarcerated by the invading Germans in the Lodz ghetto, he became one of its two official photographers. His duties afforded him access to photographic facilities which he used to secretly photograph the atrocities of Lodz, while also recording scenes of domestic life among the ghetto “elite.” As the Germans began the liquidation of Lodz in 1944, Ross buried his 3,000 negatives. Surviving the Holocaust, he recovered them and, from his postwar home in Israel, circulated images showing the horrors of Lodz. But until now, the bulk of his photographs have remained unseen, including many of the ghetto police. “For an audience accustomed to dramatic photographs of Holocaust suffering, the quiet, domestic scenes he recorded are poignant and sometimes shocking, challenging us to rethink what we understand about ghetto society.” (Thomas Weber, “Lodz Ghetto Album”, London, 2004).

Photo: “Playing as Ghetto Policeman”, 1943, Henryk Ross

Here are other photos taken by Henryk Ross: http://www.amber-online.com/exhibitions/lodz-ghetto-album-by-henryk-ross

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