Roman Vishniac archive chronicling pre-Shoah Eastern Europe goes online

Marcy Oster

(JTA) — An archive of photographs taken by Roman Vishniac documenting the life of pre-Holocaust Eastern European Jews is available online.

The archive of the Russian-American photographer also documents the rise of the Nazis and the party’s effect on Jewish life in Europe.

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It is a joint project of the International Center of Photography in New York and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

The database includes most of Vishniac’s 10,000 negatives, of which only about 350 have previously been published, according to the Holocaust museum.

The project has called on the public to assist in identifying people and places in the photographs.

“Your efforts can help others learn about the vanished world documented by Vishniac,” the website says.

Vishniac, who died in 1990, was born to a Russian-Jewish family and grew up in Moscow. His family left Russia after the revolution for Berlin.

In 1935, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee hired Vishniac to travel to Eastern Europe and take photographs documenting Jewish poverty and relief efforts to be used in its fundraising campaigns. Four years later he pursued other JDC assignments in Western Europe and worked as a freelance photographer there.

After the German invasion of France, he was arrested and sent to an internment camp. With help from the JDC and the remainder of his family’s assets, he secured release and immigrated with his wife and two children to the United States via Portugal in December 1940.