The Shoah and those missing photographs

by Jacques Mandelbaum

“Le Monde,” January 25, 2001, p. 17

The photography exhibit “Memory of the camps” now taking place at the Sully Hotel, raises, as is implied by the very debate it has stirred, the question of the role and use of images in the process of recalling an especially grim era in the history of the Western world… pictures taken (during the liberation of the camps) were used in ways that were often historically problematical, from the very first newspaper photos and newsreels to the [now] famous documentary films, such as Alain Resnais’s memorable Night and Fog (1956).

… All well-known images employed in the portrayal of this crime are, if not [outrightly] false, at the very least ill-adapted… aerial photos of a [concentration] camp taken from an altitude of 7,000 meters, on April 4, 1944, by American reconnaissance planes, where the readers can make out all the mundane details, except the presence of gas chambers.

… Devoted for the most part, by the cumulative impact of the exhibit, to photographs of the world of the concentration camp, (this exhibit) is literally haunted by the near-total absence of photographs relating to the extermination program … If seeing is believing, how then does one make the admission that where the Shoah is concerned it is precisely [tell-tale] images we are [almost] completely without.