Rediscovering Traces of Memory

BookRediscovering Traces of Memory

Rediscovering Traces of Memory

The Jewish Heritage of Polish Galicia [Second edition]

The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization


June 20th, 2018



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The present-day traces of the Jewish past in Poland are complex. Jewish life lay in ruins after the Holocaust. Much evidence of ruin remains, but there are also widespread traces that bear witness to the elaborate Jewish culture that once flourished there, even in villages and small towns. One also sees places where Jews were murdered by the Germans in the war: not only in death camps and ghettos, but also in fields, forests, rivers, and cemeteries. After the war forty years of communism suppressed even the memory of the destroyed Jewish heritage. Today, by contrast, the historic Jewish culture of Poland is increasingly being memorialized, by local Poles as well as by foreign Jews. Synagogues and cemeteries are being renovated, monuments and museums are being set up. There are festivals of Jewish culture, hasidic pilgrims, and Jewish tourists; and local people who rescued Jews during the war are being honoured. In rediscovering the traces of memory one also finds clear signs of a local Jewish revival. This extensively revised second edition includes forty-five new photographs and updated explanatory texts. Together they suggest how to make sense of the past and discover its relevance for the present. This innovative, multi-layered book will appeal to everyone concerned with questions of history, memory, and identity.


'This is a story in photographs—lush, beautiful, and haunted . . . Webber is doing a great service to those looking for a more sophisticated approach to contemporary Jewish Poland and the uncomfortable co-existence of past and present in the landscape.'
- David Shneer, East European Jewish Affairs
'Interaction between image and analysis often tells a different story than the photograph alone would . . . Even more than written documents, perhaps, photographs underscore the challenges of accessing history beyond memory. Webber's analysis and Schwarz's photographs accomplish more than finding traces. Rediscovering Traces of Memory tries to reach beyond a Jewish memory of Poland that is at once nostalgic and skewed by the Holocaust’s shadow. They trace the shaping of memory, progress in overcoming barriers to dialogue, and the limits of remembering.'
- Karen Auerbach, H-Judaic
'Astonishing book . . . The photography is outstanding, adding much to the poignancy of what the images portray . . . A complex subject has been imaginatively handled by dividing the book into five sections suggesting different ways of approaching it . . . Webber, whose narrative is thoughtful and understated, deals sensitively with relations between Poles and their Jewish past, pointing out that much of the history of the war is still contested and remembered differently . . . This is a beautiful and informative book that provides an inspiring introduction to Poland's Jewish heritage.'
- Carla King, Irish Times
'Schwarz's photos are striking, incisive, and heartbreaking.'
- Robert Leiter, Jewish Exponent
'Beautifully produced . . . gives many more people access to this remarkable record of what remains of the rich history of the Jews in Poland after the devastation of the Holocaust. Most striking is the freshness of the images, and the lack of clichés. The tragedy stares directly from the pictures but not in the form we are familiar with . . . buy the book, study the images and read the text. It gives a remarkable and moving insight into what Poland—and the world—has lost.'
- Julia Bard, Jewish Socialist

Author Information

Jonathan Webber is a British social anthropologist. He taught Jewish studies at the universities of Oxford and Birmingham before taking up a professorship at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków. He retired in 2016. He currently serves on the board of the Galicia Jewish Museum and is founding chair of the European Association for Holocaust Studies. Chris Schwarz was a much-travelled British photojournalist who in Poland teamed up with Jonathan Webber to work on the Traces of Memory project and in 2004 opened the Galicia Jewish Museum in Kraków to showcase his photographs as a way of bringing the story of the Jewish heritage in Polish Galicia to Poland and to the world. He died in 2007. Jason Francisco is an acclaimed American photographer, artist, essayist, and activist employed at Emory University, Atlanta, as an associate professor in photography studies in the Department of Film and Media Studies. Widely exhibited nationally and internationally, he is the author of several books and numerous photographic exhibits. His work is inspired by a deep concern for the Jewish heritage of eastern Europe.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Preface to the Second Edition10
A Posthumous Collaboration: A Photographer's Perspective16
Map of Polish Galicia21
1. Jewish Life in Ruins37
2. Glimpses of the Jewish Culture That Once Was62
3. The Holocaust: Sites of Massacre98
4. How the Past is Being Remembered132
5. The Revival of Jewish Life171
A Note on Galicia and Place Names199
A Note on the Standard Reference Works and Suggestions For Further Reading201
Photo Credits211