Heritage Documentation Department has been collecting and gathering data on photographs and documents related to Jewish heritage in Poland since the 1990s. It is also one of the oldest and most important Polish centers of information and knowledge exchange on this subject. The Department’s main goals include:
Managing the Photography Archive
- providing access to collections dedicated to the Jewish heritage in Poland, especially photography related to the life of Jews in the Polish territories, to individuals and institutions from Poland and abroad;
- scientific research on the resources - recognizing, describing and inventorying photographic documentation, including research on topography and history of Warsaw as well as reading and translating inscriptions on Jewish tombs;
- providing consultation and opinion on visual and audiovisual documentation.
Documenting, protecting and commemorating Jewish heritage in Poland
- providing scientific information on existing monuments of Jewish material culture in Poland, with particular focus on the condition of tombs in Jewish cemeteries of Warsaw;
- cooperation with state institutions, independent organizations, Jewish religious communities in Poland, the Rabbinical Commission, regional monument conservation offices, researchers and local activists who work on commemoration and preservation of Jewish heritage in Poland;
- providing consultation/opinion on issues related to cemeteries, wartime graves, execution sites and other memorial sites.
The Heritage Documentation Department owns one of the largest photography collections in Poland, comprising ca. 80,000 images depicting the life of Jews in Poland from 1860 until today. Our resources include also collections of films, maps, publications and letters regarding the preservation of Jewish heritage in Poland in the recent decades.
An important part of our collection are photographs from the period of German occupation - about 30,000 images depicting life in the ghettos, deportations to extermination camps and executions. Many of them are the sole documents which can help estimate the locations of the murder of Jews. These photographs were mainly taken by German soldiers for propaganda purposes or as peculiar „memorabilia” presenting life in the ghettos and deportations to extermination camps.
Another large body of images are photographs pf Jewish life in the first years after the war, taken during various public events and celebrations commemorating the victims of the Holocaust.
A separate category in the JHI collection are photographs documenting the state of preservation of the Jewish material culture monuments in Poland. This unique iconographic material comprises photographs from ca. 600 cemeteries, over 300 synagogues and prayer houses. These photographs are mostly taken in the post-war period and in contemporary times. The image material is complemented by more than 1500 document cases with information about Jewish monuments in cities and towns across Poland, local activism related to preserving Jewish heritage, as well as about cases of anti-Semitism.
Our collection includes family photos, some of which come from second half of the 19th century and early 20th century, as well as more than 1,000 images of people significant for Jewish life. Apart from this, the JHI owns a collection of photographs from World War I.
One of the most valuable sections in the Documentation Department is a body of ca. 400 photographs taken by Julia Pirotte, including portraits of artists such as Pablo Picasso, Edith Piaf, French resistance movement members, factory workers and kibbutzniks.
*In order to arrange a query, please read the terms and conditions of access to the JHI resources
*Download and complete the user form
*In order to learn about the collections of the Heritage Documentation Department, please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
*Browsing the HDD collections at the JHI Reading Room is possible from Monday to Friday, 10 AM-4 PM