While living the Prague for seven years,the years in between 1998-2000 were especially intensive. Even though I had explored great parts of the city, I had neither visited the Jewish cementary nor a synagoge during the first three years.. Soon, however, these places would play an important role for my further photograhic work.
My original idea had been to show the cultural life of the Jewish community in pictures. But after a first visit in a Jewish restaurant, I quickly changed my method. I started talking to the people that regularly came to have lunch there.From then on I knew that I had to focus on these people,and that I wanted to tell the stories of people who had lived through the holocaust in my photographs.
To establish the contacts,I was greatly supported by the Jewish community and the initiative “Theresienstadt”, aswell as by the organization “Aktion Sühnezeichen”.
The encounters with the people who had lived though the holocaust were deeply moving and unforgettable. For some of them.it was the first time that they ever talked to anybody
about their painful memories. Many of them, I interviewed and photoraghed in Prague.
That gave me the oppotunity to visit them several times,friendships developed.We went for walks together, and sometimes I would meet them on the street or at events by chance.
At one point, I was invited by Pavla into her garden house by the river Elbe. In the evening, sitting around the fire, she started telling me her story.In the morning, I was woken up by a loud scream. It was Pavla, who had been woken up by her scream herself. Panically, she put on her bathsuit, and went for a swim in the river. Afterwards, we never talked about that time again.
I could imagine that others had similar experiences when their deep wounds came back up to the surface in their nightmares. These times for them were connected to fear for their lives, hopelessness, degradation, loss of their parents, children, close relations and friends.
I am very greatful to the people who told me their story. I am sad that many of them passed away already. They always received me with great openness and friendliness. May their voices reach out to many people. May they never be forgotten, and may we remember their suffering, so that something that horrible will never happen again.
I was born in 1950 in a village near Stuttgart. I worked in several grapic departments, and I worked in a print office for 18 years.
Since 1992, I have worked as a freelance-photographer, focussing on social-documentary photography and portrait photography. Mostly, I work on long-time projects. My medium is black and white photography, only analogue.
German Chzech Future Fund
Foundation of the Jewish Community in Prague
Goethe Institut Prague
German Embassy Prague
Czech Ministry of Culture
Käthe Dorsch and Agnes Straub Foundation Berlin
Salzburg Summer Academy at Nan Goldin
1 Semester FAMU Prague
Several months stays in
Spain – Orense
Cuba – La Habana
I lived for seven years in the Czech Republic – Prague
My work has been exibited in Germany and abroad
Copyright for Photo und Text by Undine Hradil