German soldiers’ photos show Jews under occupation
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German soldiers’ photos show Jews under occupation

Knesset displays collection of images from Poland and Russia

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

  • A German soldier poses next to a Jewish man (photo credit: Shem Olam Institute)
    A German soldier poses next to a Jewish man (photo credit: Shem Olam Institute)
  • Jewish men rounded up for forced labor in Krakow, Poland (photo credit: Shem Olam Institute)
    Jewish men rounded up for forced labor in Krakow, Poland (photo credit: Shem Olam Institute)
  • Jewish men rounded up for forced labor in Krakow, Poland (photo credit: Shem Olam Institute)
    Jewish men rounded up for forced labor in Krakow, Poland (photo credit: Shem Olam Institute)
  • A Jewish man, forced to wash cars, looks at the photographer, Poland. (photo credit: Shem Olam Institute)
    A Jewish man, forced to wash cars, looks at the photographer, Poland. (photo credit: Shem Olam Institute)
  • Jews forced to wash vehicles a soldier looks on, Poland. (photo credit: Shem Olam Institute)
    Jews forced to wash vehicles a soldier looks on, Poland. (photo credit: Shem Olam Institute)
  • Jewish children in Mlawa, Poland,  told to pose while giving a Nazi salute to entertain German soldiers. (photo credit: Shem Olam Institute)
    Jewish children in Mlawa, Poland, told to pose while giving a Nazi salute to entertain German soldiers. (photo credit: Shem Olam Institute)
  • The burning of the Kock Synagogue in Poland. Although the torching of synagogues was common, photographs of the arson are rare. (photo credit: Shem Olam Institute)
    The burning of the Kock Synagogue in Poland. Although the torching of synagogues was common, photographs of the arson are rare. (photo credit: Shem Olam Institute)
  • A gypsy band plays on the steps of the Chachmei Lublin Yeshiva. The yeshiva was emptied out and all its students either dispersed or were forced into the Lublin Ghetto. (photo credit: Shem Olam Institute)
    A gypsy band plays on the steps of the Chachmei Lublin Yeshiva. The yeshiva was emptied out and all its students either dispersed or were forced into the Lublin Ghetto. (photo credit: Shem Olam Institute)

A exhibit of photographs of Jews during World War II, taken by soldiers in the German army, the Wehrmacht, was displayed at the Knesset on Monday as part of the Holocaust Remembrance Day events.

The photographs were taken during the Nazi occupation of eastern Poland and Operation Barbarossa when Germany invaded Russia.

Each of the original photos had a handwritten description on the back explaining the nature of the picture.

In describing their photographs, the soldiers used phrases such as “Jewish criminals,” “Jews at work,” “blowing up the synagogue” and “dead Jews.”

The victims portrayed in the photographs were from towns that left little documentation of their fates in WWII: Shedlitz, Kotzk, Radom, Chelm and their surrounding villages.

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein viewed the exhibit in the Chagall Hall of the Knesset building after attending an official memorial ceremony at parliament.

“It is hard to add words after the ceremony that we have just been through, and after seeing this exhibit,” he said. “The exhibit clearly presents the ‘banality of evil.’ In it there is perhaps an answer to the question “how could it happen?”

The exhibit, titled “Front and Back,” was provided by the Shem Olam Institute, which engages in research and education about the Holocaust.

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