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  • Flashes of Memory: Photography During the Holocaust

Review

Flashes of Memory: Photography During the Holocaust

Currently at the Museum für Fotografie, this show details how Nazi photography perpetuated their racist, nationalist agenda. ★★★

Kids on a street in the Łódź getto. Photo: Yad Vashem Archives

Originally shown in Israel, this touring exhibition reveals the methodical, systematic way the Nazis used hand-held camera photography to perpetuate their racist, nationalist agenda. As the exhibition unfolds, it exposes the fragility of the medium, revealing just how unprepared the world was for the brutal and remorseless techniques of the Nazis’ propaganda machine.

The exhibition’s particular focus on…the everyday documentation of antisemitism is compelling

Early on, we see nationwide publications depicting the small, oafish acts of antisemitism that paved the way for the atrocities to come. There are heartbreaking sections, like the pictures of Jewish children, bashful and smiling as Nazi-organised photographers swarm around them.

Exhibition view Museum of Photography, 2023. Foto: David von Becker

Then there’s the film work of Leni Riefenstahl, a cinematographer the world has still yet to decide what to do with. Clips of her as an old woman talking proudly of her filming techniques are shown beside stills from her Triumph of the Will, considered one of the greatest propaganda films in history.

Much of this won’t be new, but the exhibition’s particular focus on photography and the less dramatic, everyday documentation of anti-Semetism is compelling. Near the end, the use of photography as a tool gets flipped around, as the Nazis leaders are confronted by documentary photographs – in some cases their own – providing incontestable proof of their crimes. ★★★

  • Museum für Fotografie, Jebensstr. 2, Charlottenburg, through Aug 20. Get more information here.