University of Vermont

The College of Arts and Sciences

Center for Holocaust Studies

Tuesday, April 14, 2015, 7:00 PM, Waterman Memorial Lounge (Room 338)

Grief: A History of the World’s First Holocaust Liberation Photograph

David Shneer
David Shneer

by Dr. David Shneer, University of Colorado

In January 1942, the Soviet Jewish photographer Dmitrii Baltermants became one of the first Holocaust liberator-photographers when he documented the Nazi mass murder of Jews and Sinti Roma outside the city of Kerch.The image appeared widely shortly after the site’s discovery both within the Soviet Union and abroad. Twenty years later, when Baltermants brought the photograph out of his archive, it now served a very different purpose.No longer a historical document of Nazi atrocities, Baltermants, who had become one of the Soviet Union’s key cultural diplomats, turned his photojournalistic document into a stunning art photograph called “Grief" to be exhibited around the world as a memorial meditation on violence.This talk will focus on Grief’s journey from the pages of magazines and Cold War era exhibitions to the white washed walls of the Museum of Modern Art where it appeared in the 2000s as Grief sat at the juncture of history and memory.

Dr. David Shneer, Professor of History and Religious Studies and Director, Program in Jewish Studies at the University of Colorado, focuses his extensive research on 20th century European, Russian, and Jewish history and culture.His newest book, Through Soviet Jewish Eyes: Photography, War, and the Holocaust (Rutgers University Press, 2011), winner of the 2013 Jordan Schnitzer Prize of the Association for Jewish Studies and finalist for the National Jewish Book Award,looks at the lives and works of two dozen Soviet Jewish World War II military photographers to examine what kinds of photographs they took when they encountered evidence of Nazi genocide on the Eastern Front. In fall 2011, the traveling museum exhibit Through Soviet Jewish Eyes debuted at the CU Art Museum in Boulder, Colorado and then showed at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City and at the Holocaust Museum Houston. It will be opening at the University of Louisiana's Museum of Art in September 2014 and the Illinois Holocaust Museum in Chicago in February 2015.

His other books include Queer Jews, finalist for the Lambda Literary award, Yiddish and the Creation of Soviet Jewish Culture, finalist for the National Jewish Book Award, and New Jews: The End of the Jewish Diaspora, which has sparked discussion in publications like the Economist and the Jerusalem Post. His current project is Redeeming Germany: Yiddish Music Between Fascism and Communism. Shneer lectures nationally and internationally and has written for the Huffington Post, Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Post as well as publications dedicated to Jewish life and culture, including Forward, Pakntreger, Jewcy, and Nextbook.