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Description for Life and Death: Holocaust Atrocity Photographs and the U.S. Press, April-July 1945

Tue, April 18th, 2023
4:15 pm
- 5:30 pm

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During the final months of World War II, Americans encountered irrefutable proof of Nazi barbarity through photographs of the liberated German concentration camps that circulated in the U.S. press. These government-sanctioned images revealed emaciated survivors, burnt and mutilated corpses, and the sites and machineries of mass murder. Two presentations of such photographs—a photo essay in Life magazine, and a traveling photomural exhibition organized by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper—specifically urged Americans to contend visually with the most gruesome Nazi atrocities presented in great detail and at large scale. However, neither example mentioned Jewish victims in the texts that accompanied the photographs. This talk asks why the U.S. media in the spring and summer of 1945 largely ignored the genocide of six million European Jews later called the Holocaust, as well as assesses the repercussions of this omission for Jewish refugees in the post-war period

Alissa Schapiro is Associate Curator and Collections Specialist at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. Schapiro holds a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University, a master’s from the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, and she will graduate this spring from Northwestern University with a doctorate in Art History. Her research on the relationship between American art and antisemitism during World War II has been supported by leading Jewish and Holocaust Studies organizations such as the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. She regularly lectures to academic and museum audiences across the country about World War II-era art, and she consults on various projects related to Holocaust history and memory. As a curator, Schapiro has contributed to museum exhibitions and catalogues in the U.S. and abroad, including at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, and Tate Britain. Most recently, Schapiro served as one of the three co-curators for the exhibition and award-winning publication Life Magazine and the Power of Photography, organized by the Princeton University Art Museum and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Image: “St. Louisans visiting the exhibition,” May-June 1945, in Joseph Pulitzer, A Report to the American People (St. Louis: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 1945), 91.

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