The book by Leszek Dulik and Konrad Zieliński Świat utracony. Żydzi polscy. Fotografie z lat 1918-1939 (Lost World: Polish Jews – Photographs from 1918-1939) was published by the Boni Libri and the Jewish Historical Institute.
It is an impressive work, illustrating the broad spectrum of the represented subject, from religion, which has thus far been the major focus, presented through different characteristic types, through politics; what we call the field of Jewish culture, and the most difficult aspect of the Polish-Jewish relations, i.e. the problem of antisemitism. There truly is a great scale of the discussed topics – said Paweł Śpiewak, the director of JHI and author of the preface to the album describing the history of the millenium-long presence of Jews on Polish grounds.
He pointed out that the photographs on which the publication is based are exceptional in their artistry, but most of all due to the theme they illustrate.
They reveal an incredible diversity of the everyday Jewish life, the involvement in professional life, such as trade, but also in the social, political, and cultural life. We observe the wealth of human types – workers and tradespeople at markets, as well as the members of the intelligentsia and artists – Śpiewak recounted.
The photographs are divided into eight thematic sections: Miasto, miaseczko, wieś (City, Town, Village), Życie codzienne i praca (Everyday Life and Work), Wiara i życie (Faith and Life), W społeczeństwie (In the Society), Antysemityzm (Antisemitism), W świecie polityki (In the World of Politics), Emigracja (Emigration), and Kultura i nauka (Culture and Science), each of which is preceded by a short introduction. Each photograph is accompanied by an exhaustive caption. At the end of the book, one will find an index of places and people.
The pictures illustrate the everyday life of Jews both in small towns as well as bigger cities, such as Warsaw, Kraków, Łódź, or Vilnius. We see members of various professional groups, from petty merchants, shoemakers or weavers, through shop clerks, to rich department store owners. We see them participating in religious practices and the often exquisitely decorated synagogues, family occasions, such as wedding receptions, as well as Jewish participation in commemorations of national anniversaries, for instance of the January Uprising or the passing of the Constitution of 3 May.
The photographs also present the widely developed Jewish education or the sport clubs movement. One of the book's segments is dedicated to antisemitic demonstrations and incidents. The images also represent the Jewish involvement in the political life of the Second Polish Republic, as MPs and senators, or party activists. The authors also show the migration trend of Polish Jews to Palestine. The album ends with a part dedicated to their input in culture and science of the interwar Poland, which introduces such figures as Ludwik Zamenhof, the creator of esperanto, the pianist Władysław Szpilman, the poet Bolesław Leśmian, and the novelist and painter Bruno Schulz.
Many of the photographs are panoramic, giving a good idea of the depth of the Shtetls, the pre-war Jewish towns. This is yet another interesting aspect of the album. It does not just contain pictures by the most renowned Jewish photographers, such as Menachem Kipnis, but also a plethora of photographs that are technically and artistically outstanding, taken by other, sometimes less known authors. This is a truly exceptional publication – the director of the JHI added.
The album, published in Warsaw in January 2016, is also planned to be released in other languages – among others, English and Hebrew.
Source: PAP, ed.: PW, 13.1.2016, transl. AM, January 2016