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Triumph of Survival

A Photograph Visualizes the Victory over the Nazis

Seventy-five years ago, on 8 May 1945, the Second World War ended in Europe. A small and extraordinary collection of very personal photographs gives insight into the state of mind of some witnesses to this historical moment. Here is one example, as characterized by Cilly Kugelmann, the Managing Curator of the new core exhibition:

Many years ago, a friend of mine showed me a photograph from 1945 of an extended relative of hers, a young man in a deliberately casual pose smoking a pipe. The portrait was presumably taken at a photo studio. He is wearing the striped prisoner’s uniform that had become a symbol of the mass murder of the Jews of Europe. With the gesture of pipe-smoking, a pleasurable and unproductive pastime that requires extravagant idleness, he recasts the uniform of humiliation as a costume symbolizing self-determination and the victory over the Nazis. At the time, I assumed the photo was one of a kind. The research for the new core exhibition at the Jewish Museum Berlin brought to light several such photographs, suggesting that the desire to record visual evidence of survival’s triumph was more widespread than we imagined.

Cilly Kugelmann, Managing Curator of the new core exhibition

Young man in prisoner’s uniform, casually smoking a pipe

© Ruth Himmelfarb

Citation recommendation:

Cilly Kugelmann (2020), Triumph of Survival. A Photograph Visualizes the Victory over the Nazis.

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