He risked his life to leave a "historical record of our martyrdom."
In September 1939, the Nazis invaded Poland. By April 1940, the gates closed on the Lodz Ghetto, the second largest in the country after Warsaw.
Throughout the war, over 210,000 people would be imprisoned in Lodz.
Among those held captive was Henryk Ross. He was a Jewish sports photographer before the Nazi invasion and worked for the the ghetto's Department of Statistics during the war. As part of his official job, he took identification photos of the prisoners and propaganda shots of Lodz' textile and leather factories.
However, when the Nazis weren't looking, Ross stole film stock and surreptitiously took photos of the atrocities to "leave a historical record of our martyrdom."
Ross knew that if he was ever caught, he and his family would be tortured and killed.
Ross took photos of hangings, people lying in the street dying of starvation, and countless dead bodies in the morgue. He also managed to capture the day-to-day lives of the prisoners as they attempted to survive in squalor.
By the summer of 1944, over 45,000 people had died of starvation, disease, and murder in the ghetto, the vast majority of which were Jews, but some were Roma and Sinti. Tens of thousands were shipped off to concentration camps and murdered in gas vans at Chelmno.
Ross sensed that the end of the war may be near, so he buried over 6,000 negatives in the cold, hard Polish earth to leave a visual testimony of the Nazi atrocities.
On Jan. 19, 1945 the Soviet Army liberated the ghetto. Ross was among the 877 people who survived.
Two months later, Ross dug up his negatives. Most had been ruined by moisture but there were still hundreds that survived as evidence of the Nazi genocide.
In 1956, Ross and his wife immigrated to Israel. In 1961, he testified in the war crimes trial of the architect of Adolph Hitler's Final Solution, Adolf Eichmann. Some of Ross' photos were used as evidence.
Ross passed away in 1991 and his photographs were acquired by the Archive of Modern Conflict.
Here are just a few of Ross' chilling photographs taken at the Lodz Ghetto from 1941 to 1944.
Life in the Ghetto
"The potatoes in the ghetto were always rotten, frozen - garbage. But perhaps it was still possible to find something edible in the trash? Hundreds, especially children, would come to burrow in the buried pile in the ground in the hours when the watch was not strict." — Henryk Ross
Round-ups and Deportations to Killing Centers
Jews from the Lodz Ghetto were deported from Lodz via vans and cattle cars to death camps in Chelmno nad Nerem and Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Jewish policemen are catching deportees trying to escape from the hospital at 36 Lagiewnicka Street, which was an assembly point for deportees. The photograph was taken on September 10, 1942." — Henryk Ross
Death in the Ghetto.
For more information, please visit The Lodz Ghetto Photographs of Henryk Ross.
This article originally appeared on 08.20.19
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