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.
REVIEWS OF FIRST EDITION
'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