Missing Generations: Photographs by Jill Freedman

 Derfner Judaica Museum + The Art Collection at Hebrew Home at Riverdale has announced its spring exhibition, Missing Generations: Photographs by Jill Freedman which will be on view through July 16, 2023. A reception and curator’s talk will took place on Sunday, March 19 from 1:30–3 p.m. in the Museum, located at 5901 Palisade Avenue in the Riverdale section of The Bronx.


The exhibition marks the eightieth anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. It has been thirty years since Jill Freedman traveled to Poland on the fiftieth anniversary to document sites of destruction and the resurgence of Jewish life after the Holocaust in Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia. Not previously exhibited, the thirty-six black and white images in Missing Generations: Photographs by Jill Freedman capture the milestone events that took place beginning with commemorations of the Uprising in 1993, including the return of many survivors for observances in Warsaw and at Auschwitz.


 When Freedman went to Poland in April 1993, she wrote that she made the journey as a pilgrim “to mourn the dead, to honor them,” along with the “survivors, their children, old soldiers and witnesses.” She returned to many of these sites the next year after receiving a fellowship from the Alicia Patterson Foundation (APF). Founded in 1965, the APF supports the work of journalists. In her application for the fellowship, Freedman wrote that she wanted to expand her project. She sought to meet survivors and document their “gatherings, their faces, their stories, their interactions.” Freedman noted the urgency of this endeavor at a time when, once again, “ethnic cleansing” was being perpetrated in Europe and “historical revisionists” were denying the Holocaust had ever happened. 


On her trips, Freedman also visited and photographed residents of a Jewish nursing home in Szeged, Hungary; the former Terezín (Theresienstadt) camp in Czechoslovakia; the sites of Majdanek and Treblinka; the Jewish quarters in Kraków and Prague where the oldest synagogue in Europe is located; and a summer camp in Szarvas, Hungary, where Jewish children from Eastern Europe learned about traditions that had been nearly annihilated. She also made portraits of survivors in Florida, in the United States.


Freedman titled her project 50 Years Later when she proposed it to APF. She also planned a book using many of the same photographs that were published in a series of four photo essays she contributed in 1996 to the Foundation’s journal, The APF Reporter. She modified the original project title for her book, calling it Missing Generations: 50 Years Later.


Freedman wrote the text for the planned publication and included poetry and quotations from Holocaust historians. She also designed it with images ordered and juxtaposed to convey her point of view. For example, she highlighted her concern for the way in which many formerly Jewish areas, as well as the camps themselves, had become tourist destinations.


The images include poignant portraits of survivors returning to the places they had been imprisoned, like Roman Ferber, one of the youngest Jews on Schindler’s list, photographed at Birkenau. Other images focus on the remnants of Jewish communities trying to rebuild, including the opening of a Jewish kindergarten in Prague.

The photographs in this exhibition have been chosen from the more than eighty images that Freedman had included in Missing Generations, which was left unpublished at the time of her death. They have been generously lent by the Jill Freedman Family Estate.


Museum hours: Sunday–Thursday, 10:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m. Reservations are recommended but not required. Call 718.581.1596 or email art@riverspring.org to schedule a visit, in-person or virtual group tours or for holiday hours. For further information, visit the website at DerfnerOnline.org.