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Faces of the Holocaust

Published Jul. 12, 1992|Updated Oct. 11, 2005

To some, the 129 photographs taken during World War II by a German soldier are nothing more than snapshots in time _ a horrendous time in history.

For many, they are a rallying point never to forget that history.

Until the early 1980s, the graphic portrayals of death captured on film by Sgt. Heinz Jost during his one-day visit to the Warsaw Ghetto on Sept. 19, 1941, remained hidden from the world.

Today they will go on display at the Tampa Bay Holocaust Memorial Museum in Madeira Beach. They are among the few remaining Jewish archives documenting the events of the Holocaust during World War II. Most of the records were destroyed by Nazis, according to museum officials.

"This is the first time the exhibit has been on the west coast of Florida," said Stephen M. Goldman, a spokesman for the Holocaust museum.

"A Day in the Warsaw Ghetto: A Birthday Trip in Hell," is a collection of 85 photographs taken from Jost's trip to the ghetto, an area of less than 2{ square miles where Jews were stripped of all human rights and forced to live.

The exhibit was organized by the Yad Vashem Museum in Israel and premiered there in 1988. Until that time, the photographs never had been published or publicly displayed.

Jost, unable to forget what he had seen, gave the pictures to the German periodical Der Stern, which never published them. Der Stern later gave the photographs to the Yad Vashem Archives in Jerusalem.

Now touring under the auspices of the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, the exhibit is accompanied by text from selected Warsaw Ghetto diaries.

"In my letters home I didn't say anything about what I'd seen," Jost, now dead, is quoted as saying in the exhibition catalog. "I didn't want to upset my family. I thought, "What sort of world is this?' "

The scenes Jost never managed to get out of his mind and thoughts include graphic portrayals of death and burials that illustrate the terrible treatment of Jews.

In three summer months alone _ July, August and September 1941 _ 15,655 people died of hunger and disease.

"It's a very powerful and frank depiction of life in the Warsaw Ghetto," said Liz Hill, the spokeswoman for the Smithsonian traveling exhibit. "These are very difficult pictures to look at.

"They are pictures of death, children who are malnourished. They are a graphic portrayal of the painful and unspeakable horrors that were afflicted upon the Jewish people. It's really quite overwhelming."


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