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Where Do the Pictures Come From?

The search for photographs from which to select images for the photo panels in the parkland surrounding the I.G. Farben Building proved to be a complex undertaking. In many cases, it was difficult to impossible to find prewar photos of people who had been deported and in most instances killed in the concentration and extermination camps. Many pictures were destroyed, and though some few have been preserved and are now in museums or photo collections of academic institutions, in many cases nothing is known about the subjects and their lives; matches could not be made, and thus the photos were not usable in the context of this project. Often photos were retained only by friends or family members who managed to emigrate in good time and took these pictures along as mementos. Sometimes photo albums were entrusted to neighbors, who could not always be located again after the war.


Most of the photos chosen come from private hands, from survivors or their children. We would like to express our gratitude here to all those who helped in the time-consuming search for photos and made their private pictures available to the project! In many cases, the pictures show family members who were murdered in Buna/Monowitz or other camps, in addition to those who later succeeded in surviving the Buna/Monowitz concentration camp. Thus the photo installation serves as a memorial site both for the survivors and for the victims and extends beyond the horizon of the history of a single concentration camp. Through the family members, a direct link is drawn between Buna/Monowitz and the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp.


The selection of photos attempts to make the extent of the Nazis’ persecution of Jews from all over Europe and the “lifeworlds” destroyed in the process a subject of discussion. Therefore the images include photos from Poland, Romania, Serbia, Norway, France, and Germany. The nature of the photos demonstrated the varying status of photography as a component of everyday family life in these countries in the 1920s and 1930s, when the pictures were taken. While many of the pictures from Eastern Europe were taken by street photographers, members of the German middle class were more likely to own and use a camera in their private life, as indicated by Norbert Wollheim’s photos, for example.

(SD/MN/SP; transl. KL)