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[Jewish refugee in military barracks that have been converted to living quarters, Polish detention camp in Zbaszyn]

Date November 1938
Location Zbaszyn Poland
Dimensions Image: 9 1/4 x 7 3/4 in. (23.5 x 19.7 cm)
Paper: 9 15/16 x 8 in. (25.2 x 20.3 cm)
Print medium Photo-Gelatin silver

On October 27, 1938, the German police and military arrested 17,000 Jews of Polish nationality or descent and forcibly transported them to the Polish border. The Polish authorities refused to admit them and roughly 9,000 Jews, including children, pregnant women, the elderly and infirm, were trapped in the small Polish border town of Zbaszyn, where they lived in filthy horse stables and abandoned military barracks as winter fast approached. Disease was rampant, and many died of pneumonia. Vishniac later described Zbaszyn as “a no man’s land.” The Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) quickly responded, creating a refugee camp, and commissioned Vishniac to document the plight of Zbaszyn’s refugees.
Distraught by the suffering of his parents at Zbaszyn, Herschel Grynszpan, a German-born Jew of Polish descent, went to the German Embassy in Paris and assassinated Nazi official Ernst vom Rath. German authorities used the assassination as a pretext for Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, an antisemitic pogrom that took place throughout Germany on November 9–10, 1938.


© Mara Vishniac Kohn

Credit line

Gift of Mara Vishniac Kohn, 2013

Feedback Accession No. MVK.HGG.290.2009