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KOUDELKA’S THEATER OF EXILE

Charity is always help that is offered too late, just as revolution is help offered too soon.

John Krich, Music in Every Room

THERE WAS VERY LITTLE, in fact nothing material, that Mendel Grossman could have done to help his fellow Jews in the Lodz ghetto. Powerless, and at great risk from the Nazis, he chose to photograph the extremity of his people. Those few of his negatives and prints that have survived stand as an appeal to a future he was not to know. In serving to recall past events, photographs with this urgency also admonish us. It is as if we were being told that historical hardships and cruelties have been visualized so as not to be repeated—and, of course, they always are.

When photographs show horrible suffering, we are often inclined to think the picture-taking impulse itself was ineffectual. As human dignity is threatened and life is lost, it seems a pathetic, sometimes a

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