Author Archives: David Shneer

About David Shneer

holds the Louis P. Singer Chair in Jewish History at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where he is professor of history and religious studies and director of the program in Jewish studies. His newest book is Through Soviet Jewish Eyes: Photography, War, and the Holocaust (Rutgers, 2011), winner of the 2013 Association for Jewish Studies Jordan Schnitzer Prize and finalist for the National Jewish Book Award. His current project, Redeeming Germany: Yiddish Music between Fascism and Communism, examines Yiddish musical culture's place in European history from 1933 through 1989.

Ghostly Landscapes: Soviet Liberators Photograph the Holocaust

In the West, Auschwitz and its gas chambers became a metonym of genocide, but genocide takes place less often in purpose-built death centers than in mundane sites of daily existence, like “killing fields” in Cambodia or by the sides of roads in Rwanda. So too with the Holocaust. In the Soviet Union, the Holocaust was more mundane, integrated into daily life under Nazi occupation. Because of this, the absence documented in Soviet Holocaust liberation photography better reflects the experience of genocide than the human drama of survival captured in American and British photography. In these mundane, haunting, and sublime images, Soviet photographers have unwittingly captured the story of genocide—ghostly landscapes haunted by the dead, not the living. Continue reading →