A Pictorial Visit to the Jewish Children in Poland
This 1938 maquette for an unrealized photography book was commissioned by the JDC to document its expansive network of summer camps for impoverished Jewish children in Poland. Vishniac created the maquette, hand-gluing 90 vintage prints into the thick book, and included an essay with text corresponding to each of the 90 images.
Vishniac’s photographs and essay celebrate the benefits of rural summer camps subsidized by the JDC. The book’s purpose, to promote the JDC’s mission to improve the lives of Jewish children, was accomplished by juxtaposing carefully selected photographs with impassioned and succinct text. The author makes the “pictorial visit” a journey from the darkness of urban poverty into the idyllic “paradise on earth” of the JDC’s summer camps: at the end of a “four weeks’ holiday,” the children of the slums, once “stunted,” fearful, malnourished, and sickly, are transformed into hopeful, strong, healthy children.
Vishniac sent the maquette to the New York offices of the JDC in late 1938. As war approached and the needs of European Jews radically changed, the focus of the JDC shifted away from projects such as summer camps to emigration and refugee relief. The maquette sat in the JDC archives for more than seventy years. It was digitized this year, and is being displayed here for the first time.
© Mara Vishniac Kohn
Collection the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee