A Day in a Life of the Warsaw Ghetto in Photographs

by Natasha Lyandres, Head of Special Collections and Curator, Russian and East European Collections

Special Collections recently acquired two World War II era photo albums featuring original photographs from within and outside of the Warsaw Ghetto’s walls.

Although the albums lack dates and inscriptions, they probably belonged to а German soldier who visited Warsaw sometime after the establishment of the Ghetto in November 1940 and before the Warsaw Ghetto uprising in April 1943.  At the height of its existence in 1941, the Warsaw Ghetto included more than 500,000 Jews from Warsaw and surrounding towns. They lived in subhuman conditions in a small area segregated from the rest of the city by wire and brick walls. Fueled by years of massive Nazi propaganda, the occupied Warsaw was a popular destination for Wehrmacht soldiers who came here to see for themselves the “authentic” East European Jews and their culture. 

Three men standing in the Warsaw Ghetto. (MSE/REE 0042-1, fol. 4r)

The first album presents a broad spectrum of people and activities taking place inside the Ghetto walls.  It comprises twenty-four photographs probably taken during a single day as the photographer strolled through the streets documenting his encounters with the doomed inhabitants. The images vary from close up portraits of people directly facing the camera to more general depictions of the busy street life, misery, and suffering.

The photographer captured “typical Jewish” men with long beards wearing traditional attire, women with strollers in the park, rickshaws used for transporting people and goods, crowded marketplaces with inhabitants trying to make a living by selling potatoes, warm water, and the obligatory Star of David armbands, uprooted families arriving to the Ghetto from nearby towns, homeless children begging for food, and people collapsing and dying on the sidewalks from hunger and diseases.

The Old town. (MSE/REE 0042-2, fol. 18r)

The second album presents forty-seven photographs depicting mostly street views and buildings on the “Aryan” side of Warsaw, including images of the Ghetto wall (Ulica Graniczna), views of the Old town with its charming narrow streets and alleys, palaces with Nazi flags and German soldiers, and historical monuments, many of which were later destroyed. This album also contains several aerial views of the soon to be destroyed city and bridges over the Vistula river. 

Taken by a perpetrator, these photographs serve as important historical evidence of the Holocaust and Nazi atrocities in Poland.

The albums are currently on display as the September spotlight exhibit in Special Collections. After the exhibit closes, they will be digitized. They will soon be available on the Marble (Museums, Archives, Rare Books and Libraries Exploration) online platform.

RBSC is closed Monday, September 5th, for Labor Day.

Upcoming Events: September 2022

Please note that the corridor outside RBSC is temporarily narrowed to a pedestrian tunnel due to ongoing library renovations, but we remain open regular hours.

Please join us for the following public events being hosted in Rare Books and Special Collections:

Thursday, September 1 at 5:00pm | Italian Research Seminar: “How Contini Worked: The Critic’s ‘Scartafacci'” – Ryan Pepin (University of Notre Dame).

Friday, September 16 at 3:30pm | The Diary of Pelagia Rościszewska: Facts, Secrets, and Surprises – Dariusz Skórczewski (John Paul II Catholic University).


Daughters of Our Lady: Finding a Place at Notre Dame, an exhibition of materials from the University of Notre Dame Archives curated by Elizabeth Hogan and reflecting on the 50th anniversary of coeducation at Notre Dame, opened late-August and will run through the fall semester.

The current spotlight exhibits are Three Sisterhoods and Two Servants of God (June – September 2022) and A Day in a Life of the Warsaw Ghetto in Photographs (August – September 2022).

RBSC will be closed Monday, September 5th,
for Labor Day.

WWII as Seen Through the Eyes of the Japanese Navy

by Hye-jin Juhn, East Asian Studies and Metadata Librarian

The book, The Dignified Appearance of the Imperial Navy (帝国海軍の威容), published on December 8, 1942,  provides an insight into the Japanese WWII military point of view.

The first chapter, the “Basics” or the “Foundations” (基礎篇), describes in detail how, in 1941, the Japanese Navy prepared its preemptive strikes against the United States and the Pacific colonies of the former British Empire.

On the chapter title page is the seamen’s weekly schedule. “Training” is planned for every day of the week; There is neither Saturday nor Sunday, but two Mondays and two Fridays.

Monday: training (訓練)
Monday: training (訓練)
Tuesday: training (訓練)
Wednesday: training (訓練)
Thursday: training (訓練)
Friday: training (訓練)
Friday: intensive training (猛訓練)

The photos in this chapter show the sailors performing daily military tasks, exercising, dining, etc. They also highlight the battleships, military planes, and weapons.

This photo shows the subservient relationship of the sailors to the guns above their heads.
The caption reads: “A weapon is the spirit of a military man. For a sailor, the battleship is the largest weapon; the cannons are the battleship’s most important weapon…”

The second chapter, the “Outcome of the War” (戦果篇),  presents a panorama of images of Hawaii, Malaya, New Guinea, and other targets in Southeast Asia, shortly after bombing by the Japanese planes. The photos were not intended to be realistic or artistic. Nor do they appear to attempt to “entertain” or “thrill” their audience, as today’s “war pornography” does. Seen from the distant sky, the smoke shrouds the ongoing destruction below.

For the Japanese at the time, these images likely evoked a sense of pride and superiority, and promoted a worship of the Navy, its weapons and machines, and especially of the provider of those weapons: the emperor. These images were meant to “promote unity, suppress individuality, defend hierarchy, and still dissent.” (See “Revolution by Redefinition: Japan’s War without Pictures,” by Julia Adeney Thomas, in Visualizing Fascism.)

In the preface, there are various references to “sound”:

“Breaking the thirty-years’ silence, early in the morning of the eighth day, the Japanese Imperial Navy briskly woke up and raided Pearl Harbor of Hawaii…”

卅年の沈黙を破つて蹶然と起きった帝国海軍は,開戦劈頭の八日朝,ハワイ眞珠灣を急襲し…

“The spirits of the Japanese Imperial Navy, reinforced by iron-like silence and bloody training, were released, and finally shed a brilliant light above the world.”

鐵の沈黙と血の訓練とによって倍はれに帝国海軍魂喀,遂にその燦然たる光を全世界に放つたのである.

“The photos included in this book respond to the emotional cheers (voices) of 100 million Japanese citizens.”

本帖に収録した寫眞は,…一億国民の感激のに答へんとするものである.

Upcoming Events: August 2022

Please note that the corridor outside RBSC has construction barriers due to ongoing library renovations, but we remain open regular hours.

There are no public events currently scheduled for August. Please check back for events being hosted in Rare Books and Special Collections during September.


An exhibition of materials from the University of Notre Dame Archives reflecting on the 50th anniversary of coeducation at Notre Dame will open mid-August and run through the fall semester.

The current spotlight exhibits are Three Sisterhoods and Two Servants of God (June – August 2022) and Fifties Flair and Seventies Feminism Presented by Two Magazines (May – August 2022). The latter exhibit will be replaced towards the end of August by an exhibit showcasing two recently acquired World War II era photo albums featuring original photographs from the within and outside of the Warsaw Ghetto’s walls.

RBSC will be closed Monday, September 5th,
for Labor Day.

Stories of Power and Diversity in Notre Dame’s Collections

This week we highlight the Hesburgh Libraries’ first student-curated digital exhibition, Still History? Exploring Mediated Narratives.

Seven Notre Dame students who enrolled in the Winter Session course, “Stories of Power and Diversity: Inside Museums, Archives, and Collecting” worked together to create this unique show. The students ranged from first year to graduate students and their fields of study included history, English, anthropology, classics, art history, and liberal studies. Their show brings together seven items from three Notre Dame campus repositories – Rare Books and Special Collections, University Archives, and the Snite Museum of Art – and reflects on how they intersect with themes of diversity. 

We invite you to explore Still History?’s seven showcases. Each explores a single object or set of objects. Each also includes a personal reflection statement about the student’s work on this project. The show presents a variety of twentieth-century visual and textual sources, including photographs by Laura Gilpin, Aaron Siskind, Ernest Knee, and Mary Ellen Mark, a poster supporting women in prison, a pamphlet on disabilities, and articles from the Observer. Questions about representation link these disparate sources and thread the showcases together in interesting ways. The students ask how art and artifacts do and do not represent the experiences of Black, Native American, LGBTQ, mentally- and physically-disabled, incarcerated, poor, and Hispanic-American individuals and groups. An introduction and afterword by RBSC’s own curators, Erika Hosselkus and Rachel Bohlmann, who taught this new course, bookend the show.

This exhibition invites viewers to connect with holdings in the University of Notre Dame’s campus repositories and to ongoing campus and nationwide conversations about diversity and representation. We are pleased to share it here!

Recent Acquisition: Living Hiroshima photo anthology

by Hye-jin Juhn, East Asian Studies Librarian

The anthology Living Hiroshima: Scenes of A-Bomb Explosion with 378 Photographs Including Scenery of Inland Sea (1948) was planned and published by the Hiroshima Prefectural Tourist Association for the purpose of introducing images of post-war Hiroshima to the world. The production was handled by Bunkasha (formerly Tōhōsha, which had published propaganda materials for the Japanese military during the war). Most of its photos were taken in 1947 by three Bunkasha photographers, two of whom also had formerly worked for Tōhōsha. The anthology also includes photos taken in 1945 by Kimura Ihē, the former head of the Photography Department at Tōhōsha.

Although published under U.S. military censorship during the American Occupation, the anthology is a rare and valuable documentation of the devastation and the recovery of the city from the bombing.

Recent Acquisition: Hugo Achugar Papers

by Hannah E. Sabal, Processing Archivist for Special Collections

The Hugo Achugar Papers have been recently described and are open to students and researchers.

Hugo Achugar (1944-) is a Uruguayan literary critic and prolific writer of poetry and essays. He has held teaching positions at universities in both Latin America and the United States, including Universidad de la República, Uruguay; Universidad Católica, Venezuela; Northwestern University; and Dartmouth College. He currently serves as a member of the Emeritus Faculty at the University of Miami. Some of Achugar’s better-known works include Ideologías y estructuras narrativas en José Donoso, 1950-1970, a literary essay on the works of José Donoso; Hueso Quevrado (cuaderno de la Bahía), a collection of poetry; and Falsas Memorias: Blanca Luz Brum, a fictionalized account of the life of Blanca Luz Brum.

Conference Materials, 1991, 2008

The collection consists of manuscripts, photographs, clippings, and journals, all forming a record of Achugar’s professional career. Included are correspondence, notes and research files, lecture and conference materials, and poetry. The collection also includes Achugar’s personal library, which will soon be cataloged.

“Hueso Quevrado (Cuaderno de la Bahia),” Drafts, 2004-2006 (folder 1)

The highlight of the collection is the series of articles and drafts, comprised of drafts of both published and unpublished essays, poetry, and fiction. For some works, there are multiple drafts written at different points in time, allowing researchers to follow Achugar’s writing process. For example, in the series exist various drafts, notes, and preparatory materials for Hueso Quevrado, representing Achugar’s process from research to draft to revision.

“Hueso Quevrado (Cuaderno de la Bahia),” Drafts, 2004-2006 (folder 2)

For more information on this collection, please view the online finding aid.

Recent Acquisition: The Hildegard Sekler Collection

By Jennifer Brcka, Processing Archivist for Special Collections

In the immediate wake of the Anschluss, or German annexation of Austria on March 12, 1938, the German Reich initiated a campaign against that nation’s Jewish citizens. The Seklers, a Viennese family, were victims of these actions, and later, of the Holocaust. The Hildegard Sekler Collection, a recent archival acquisition by Hesburgh Libraries’ Rare Books and Special Collections, records the family’s story through a series of letters and documents.

The collection consists of over 400 pieces of correspondence generated surrounding the separation of Leopold and Toni Sekler from their daughter, Hildegard. Most relate to Hildegard’s flight from Austria at the age of sixteen, and chiefly date from the years between 1939 and 1945. The bulk are personal letters and postcards sent to Hildegard by family, friends, and her tutor. A body of official correspondence with governmental and aid agencies has been preserved here, as well. More than 100 documents and personal papers are also found within the collection. These range from official records relating to Leopold’s career in the Vienna Finance Ministry to, less formally, Hildegard’s homework assignments, school notes, and essays.

Name change slips for Leopold and Toni Sekler and the latter’s passport, as displayed in the January 2019 spotlight exhibit about Theresienstadt (Terezín).

This group of personal documents includes Leopold and Toni Sekler’s passports. In August of 1938, the German authorities enacted the Executive Order on the Law on the Alteration of Family and Personal Names. This order required Jews with non-Jewish first names to formally add “Israel” for males and “Sara” for females to their legal names. The Seklers were forced to comply. Three slips noting the name changes for each remain inserted in Leopold Sekler’s Passport. Following a similar pronouncement aimed at identifying Jewish citizens, Toni Sekler’s passport was stamped with a red “J”.

Letters illuminate desperation the family felt in the months that followed. Leopold Sekler appealed to Switzerland and the United States to obtain visas for the family to emigrate. His requests were met with delays and little success. Undeterred, he sought out directories and wrote to a handful of New Yorkers, strangers with the Sekler name, whom he hoped might provide support for a visa application. Replies from a Constance Sekler express frustration over past experiences with the Consulate in Vienna, as well as with her own limited resources. Empathetic, though unable to assist, she wrote, “Whether or not we are related isn’t of great importance because I am just as much interested in your welfare in any event.” A Jack Sekler, living in the Bronx, was able to offer support, though a quota system placed the Sekler family on a waiting list, and ultimately prevented their seeking asylum in America.

In January of 1939, a letter from the Welfare Headquarters of the Jewish Cultural Society advised that it had secured passage to England for Hildegard. At age 16, she quickly fled, unaccompanied, to London where she lived in a youth hostel. A wave of letters from her parents and concerned family and friends soon followed. Many capture the bleakness of the situation for those who remained in Austria.  A March 14, 1939 letter sent by Trude Mesuse states (in German), “Furthermore, your father wants you to know, if he writes “ich” like this at the end or the beginning of a sentence, you ought to pay attention to this sentence and think about it, because it will have a particular meaning he can’t express clearly writing from Vienna. And you should be careful when you write, too.”

Many letters express the love and concern of parents separated from their only child. In a letter (in English) from her father on June 1, of 1940, he asks his “Dear Hilde” to, “[…] stay in the garden as long as possible and to sleep by open windows. You had better to speak only English, at home too. It would be better for all big girls. The German language you will not forget, I am sure. The conversation is the most important and the best mean to learn a language, believe me, I know it by experience.” By 1941, sending correspondence to countries at war with Germany was prohibited, and Leopold used the Red Cross Message Service to send his daughter greetings on her nineteenth birthday.

Further correspondence within the collection convey the uncertainties of life in London during the Blitz. Hildegard studied in London with a tutor, Dr. Judah Simon Goller, who wrote her frequently. In an undated letter he mentions two children, mutual acquaintances and also displaced minors, who had recently left London to be reunited with family. He muses, “So the twins have gone, and we are short two more. Please God, [may] they reach their parents in safety and soon forget all their sorrows, and remember sometimes the little joys they shared with us. I wonder what’s the good of telling me not to worry about the children when there’s a raid on? I just can’t help it.”

Hildegard continued, unsuccessfully, to seek a means for her parents to flee Austria. In October of 1942, Leopold and Toni Sekler were deported to Theresienstadt, a transit and labor camp. From there, the couple were transported to Auschwitz on October 12, 1944. Neither survived. Hildegard married her tutor, Dr. Goller, in 1960. She remained in London until her death in 2008.

Through materials largely in German or English (and occasionally in French), the Hildegard Sekler Collection presents a unique view of the Anschluss and its aftermath, unaccompanied child refugees of the Holocaust, wartime experiences in London, and personal histories of prisoners of Theresienstadt. The collection (MSE/MD 6408) is open for research in Rare Books and Special Collections, and a detailed finding aid can be found online.

Upcoming Events: August and early September

Please join us for the following events being hosted in Rare Books and Special Collections:

Wednesday, August 22 at 3:00pm | “The Conservation of Dante’s 1477 La Commedia.” A public talk by Jeff Peachey (Independent Book Conservator, New York City). The conservation treatment of the Hesburgh Libraries’ important copy of Dante’s La Commedia (Venice: Vindelinus de Spira, 1477) will be detailed in this profusely illustrated lecture. Bibliophiles, conservators, librarians, Italian scholars, and anyone curious about the physical structure of books will find this lecture of interest.

Thursday, August 23 at 5:00pm | The Italian Research Seminar: “The Scene of the Crime: Tombolo On- and Off-Screen” by Charles Leavitt (Notre Dame). Sponsored by Italian Studies at Notre Dame.

Friday, September 7 at 1:00pm | Operation Frankenstein: “Illustrated Frankenstein: The 200th Anniversary Edition” by David Plunkert (artist and illustrator for The New Yorker). Operation Frankenstein is a semester-long series of interdisciplinary events taking place at the University of Notre Dame to celebrate the bicentennial of Mary Shelley’s novel.

 

The exhibit In Solzhenitsyn’s Circle: the Writer and his Associates will open on August 20 and run through the end of the semester.

The current spotlight exhibits are Frankenstein 200 (August – December 2018) and The Forbes Simulachres: The “Dance of Death” Reimagined (July – August 2018).

RBSC will be closed Monday, September 3rd, for Labor Day.

Recent Acquisition by the Library’s 2018 Foik Award Recipient

by Rachel Bohlmann, American History Librarian and Erika Hosselkus, Curator, Latin American Collections

Next week the university will confer the 2018 Rev. Paul J. Foik Award posthumously on David Dressing, who was Hesburgh Library’s Latin American Studies Librarian from 2011 through 2017. We’d like to mark the occasion by highlighting a remarkable collection David purchased jointly with the American History Librarian for Rare Books and Special Collections (RBSC). It is an assemblage of pen and ink caricature drawings and watercolor paintings that show scenes captured by travelers to Latin America and the United States during the middle decades of the nineteenth century.

John Bateman (b. 1839) was a young Englishman from a wealthy, landowning family in Staffordshire when he traveled to the United States and Latin America around 1860. He created a series of drawings in ink of scenes he observed along the way, to which he Image of vulgar Americanadded wry descriptions. An example, shown here, from June 1860, depicts Bateman’s version of a vulgar American—a gun-toting, spitting, overly-familiar buffoon who complained about the new Republican Party’s opposition to slavery’s extension in the west. The young traveler created a funny and alarming image of American political affairs a few months before Lincoln’s election in 1860 and the start of southern secession. Bateman made caricatures like this one as he traveled through Central America and the Caribbean.

Even more intriguing, however, is the fact that Bateman’s collection includes a second group of visual works: a handful of watercolor paintings signed simply, “G.U.S.” They date from between 1838 and 1840 and depict Central and South American people and scenes.

Image of kneeling woman and in tapada poseHighlighted here are three vivid paintings of veiled women of Lima, Peru. One is depicted kneeling in church, another is shown from the back, and the third is in the typical tapada pose, her head veiled, Image of veiled womanmysteriously and coquettishly revealing a single eye. Each wears the traditional saya, an overskirt showing the feet and ankles, and manto, a thick veil secured at the waist and raised to cover the face. The latter was popularly used, even among married women of Lima, as a prop with which to flirt.

G.U.S.’s paintings are reminiscent of those by the famous mulato painter of Lima, Pancho Fierro. Albums of Fierro’s drawings were marketed to tourists in Lima from the 1840s to the 1860s, so G.U.S. could have known Fierro’s work and incorporated it into his own pieces.

The presence of G.U.S.’s paintings in the Bateman collection raises intriguing connections for further study of related items held in Special Collections. We hold a copy of the French painter, A. A. Bonnaffé’s “Recuerdos de Lima” album (1856), which he sold to tourists and which features the tapada of Lima. More elaborate and detailed than the small depictions by G.U.S., these wonderful images highlight even more flirtatious poses, including a woman (shown here) who intentionally drew the viewer’s attention to her exposed and slender ankle.

Image of woman with exposed ankleimage of two of woman from Bonnaffé albumimage of three of woman from Bonnaffé albumimage of four of woman from Bonnaffé album

 

 

 

 

The Bateman collection and Bonnaffé album are just two examples of David Dressing’s thoughtful and expert acquisitions for RBSC over nearly a decade. His work has made an enduring contribution to research, teaching, and scholarship at Hesburgh Libraries and the field of Latin American Studies.