skip navigation

The Holocaust Archive Revealed: Bad Arolsen through the lens of Richard Ehrlich

Apr 21 - Jun 20 2009

UB Art Gallery

In addition to the massive atrocities of the Holocaust and the individual horrors that attended it, most people have no idea of the extent of the weirdly obsessive record-keeping practices of the Nazi bureaucracy, whose millions of mundane and detailed materials present excruciating and undeniable evidence of its terrible crimes. The existence of these records, documented by noted photographer Richard Ehrlich, M.D., not only takes our understanding of the Holocaust to an entirely different, and most uncomfortable, level, but explicitly and powerfully challenges Holocaust denial. The subject of his photographs is the International Tracing Service (ITS) archive in Bad Arolsen, Germany, which encompasses more than 16 miles of records and artifacts housed in six buildings, one a former SS barracks.

The exhibition comprises 26 panels featuring photographs taken at the ITS accompanied by text detailing the varied contents of the archives, which were collected from a number of sources, including the Gestapo, ghettos, prison camps, and other agencies of Nazi authority. Among the many individual documents depicted are the original “Schindler’s list,” a transport order to Bergen Belsen that includes the name of Anne Frank, and an invitation from Gestapo chief Reinhard Heydrich to a brunch meeting to discuss “a total solution to the Jewish question in Europe.” Through Ehrlich’s photographs, we can read entries in the Buchenwald prisoner logs and death books, view medical records that count lice removed from prisoners, absorb the sheer magnitude of countless record-lined shelving, and witness intimate details of people’s daily lives told through photographs and personal possessions. The 50 million ITS documents have played an important role in historical research, family reunification, refugee service, and in tracing the fates of countless individuals.

The exhibition will be mounted in conjunction with a 5 PM lecture on April 21 “The Holocaust and Art: Differing Approaches,” featuring Ohio Wesleyan University professor emeritus, artist Marty J. Kalb, whose “Holocaust Series” documents what he calls “the industrialization of murder by a modern government.”

The lecture will take place in the Drama Theater, Center for the Arts, UB North Campus, and will be followed by a panel discussion by Ehrlich and UB professors: Richard Cohen, Harvey Breverman and Saul Elkin.

The exhibition was made possible through support from UB alumnus Wayne S. Blank (BA, Philosophy, 1966), a member of the College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Advisory Council Member and president of Bergamot Station in Santa Monica, Southern California’s largest art gallery complex and cultural center, and of the Shoshana Wayne Gallery.

About the Artist

Richard Ehrlich’s interest in photography began as a child growing up in the northern suburbs of New York City. He postponed photography for almost 40 years to build a surgical practice in Los Angeles, limiting his picture taking to a visual record of his work in the operating room. For almost a decade, he has been taking photographs professionally, working in series that focus primarily on natural landscapes, architecture, and his world travels. Ehrlich’s keen eye elicits a resonant sense of place, as seen in his portrayal of his local turf, Homage to Rothko: Malibu Skies. Ehrlich’s photographs are in major museum collections, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The UCLA Hammer Museum and the Denver Art Museum. He is represented by Bonni Benrubi, New York City; Fay Gold, Atlanta; Weston, Carmel, CA; and Craig Cull, Santa Monica.