(Artist Pinchas Shaar)
Pinchas Shaar was born on March 15, 1923, in Lodz, Poland, when he was sixteen; he met the Polish painter Wladyslaw Strzeminski, a disciple of the Russian painter Kazimir Malevich, who encouraged Pinchas’ artistic education. Pinchas had his first exhibition in 1938 and also completed photomontages for a poetry book by Moshe Broderson that was published in 1939. Then, in September 1939, Nazi Germany invaded Poland. Pinchas and his brothers escaped from Lodz as the German occupation began and headed east to Soviet occupied Poland.
(The Lodz Ghetto)
The Germans established a ghetto for the Jews in Lodz, named Litzmannstadt, and required the residents to perform forced labor. Pinchas, like his other family members, first worked in a factory. But when his artistic talents were discovered, he was employed producing signs and charts for the Statistical Office, just like Mendel Grossman who also worked as a photographer in the same department. In 1944, the Germans destroyed the ghetto and deported the inhabitants to concentration camps. Pinchas, with his father and brothers, was sent to Sachsenhausen, where they were used as forced laborers until the Soviet Army liberated the camp in 1945.
(Liberation of the Camps)
The family returned to Lodz in May 1945. However, Pinchas could not bear to remain in the place where so much destruction had occurred and he left for Germany, and then settled in France. Mendel Grossman was not so fortunate he was taken to Berlin and died on a death march on April 30th 1945, 72 years ago.
(Jews taken from the Ghetto to the Camps)
One may wonder why am I speaking about Shaar Pinchas on the 72-Death Anniversary of Mendel Grossman? The reason for me remembering Shaar Pinchas is because I am constantly reminded of his words about Mendel Grossman in a book Holocaust Chronicles by Robert Moses Shapiro in a chapter “Photographic Bard of the Lodz Ghetto, Pinchas Shaar -N.York City”, Pichas knew Mendel well, as they were both raised in Lodz, and both often bumped into each other at their regular creative circle of artist get together’s, as Mendel Grossman apart from being a photographer was a impressive artist.
Words of Pinchas Shaar on Mendel Grossman “ Before I finish my personal account of my great friend I would like to announce my personal wish that one day in the near future someone will establish a scholarship or prize for Jewish photojournalism, as Americans have done for Robert Capa. That would be the best memorial and monument for the mentesh and photojournalist Mendel Grossman.
(Mendel Grossman working in his darkroom in the Lodz ghetto)
These words of Shaar Pinchas kept ringing in my ears when I was recently doing a two day filmmaking workshop in Khandala last week, for the Arch Diocesan Youth, Mumbai for the year 2017, I shared with the young boy’s and girls all Catholic youths with little or no understanding of the Holocaust, about Mendel Grossman and his passion as a photographer, way ahead of his time, he captured in pictures the unjust that were done in the Lodz ghetto, which I felt was very crucial, specially with the times that we live in today.
(Addressing the youth at the Filmmaking camp)
. I could see if only they were shaped in to see things as just plain human beings more than anything else, they could be lead to do a great service to humanity and this country as future filmmakers. And there I wished, and I do wish if I could one day maybe start a film school? Or through another organization, establish a scholarship, or prize, in memory of Mendel Grossman. I just wish I could do something to contribute to the memory of Mendel Grossman in my lifetime G-d willing…
(Future Filmmakers at work at the camp)
I could finally now visit the “Ghetto’s Fighters House Museum” in Galilee, Israel soon, who have been very kind to send me a letter of invitation, on my request last year to visit their Archive and complete my research on Mendel Grossman and the Lodz Ghetto.
(“Ghetto’s Fighters House Museum” Galilee, Israel)
Special thanks to Mr Zvi Oren and Anat Bratman-Elhalel-Director of Ghetto Fighters House Museum, Galilee, Israel for sending me an invitation letter and permission for using the photographs of Mendel Grossman and the Lodz ghetto in this article.