Situated in the heart of Poland, the city of Lodz was occupied by German forces in 1939, who consolidated the area’s Jewish population—more than 160,000 people—into a poor industrial section. The city was sealed off from the outside world, making the Lodz Ghetto the country’s second largest ghetto for Europe’s Jewish population, after Warsaw. Henryk Ross was among those confined to the ghetto, put to work by the Nazi regime as a bureaucratic photographer.

Henryk Ross photographing for identification cards, Jewish Administration, Department of Statistics, 1940. © Art Gallery of Ontario, Courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Ross took official photographs for Jewish identification cards, as well as images used as propaganda that promoted the ghetto’s efficiency. Unofficially—and at great risk—Ross also documented the brutal realities of life under Nazi rule, culminating in the deportation of thousands to death camps like Auschwitz. Hoping to preserve this true historical record, Ross buried his negatives in 1944. He returned for them after Lodz’s liberation, discovering that more than half of the original 6,000 survived.

Lodz ghetto sign for Jewish residential area (“Jews. Entry Forbidden”), 1940-44. © Art Gallery of Ontario, Courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

“Memory Unearthed,” organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario, now publicly presents more than 200 of Ross’s powerful photographs, comprising a moving and intimate visual record of the Holocaust. The images are accompanied by artifacts, including Ross’s own identity card, ghetto notices and footage from the 1961 trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann, where Ross’s photographs were submitted as evidence. An album of contact prints, handcrafted by Ross and shown in its entirety as the centerpiece of the exhibition, serves as a summation of his memories, capturing his personal narrative.

Men hauling cart for bread distribution, 1942. © Art Gallery of Ontario, Courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

The exhibition runs from March 25 to July 30 at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, offering visitors an extraordinarily rare glimpse of life inside the Lodz Ghetto through the lens of this Polish Jewish photojournalist, who died in 1991.

Boy walking in front of the bridge crossing Zigerska (the “Aryan”), 1940-44. © Art Gallery of Ontario, Courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

See more photos from Henryk Ross below.

Excavating the box of negatives and documents Henryk Ross buried in the ghetto at 12 Jagielonska Street, Lodz, March 1945, 1945. © Art Gallery of Ontario, Courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Ghetto police with woman behind barbed wire, 1942. © Art Gallery of Ontario, Courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Man walking in winter in the ruins of the synagogue on Wolborska street (destroyed by Germans in 1939), 1940. © Art Gallery of Ontario, Courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Children talking through fence of central prison on Czarnecki Street prior to deportation, 1940-42. © Art Gallery of Ontario, Courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Children being transported to Chelmno nad Nerem (renamed Kulmhof) death camp, 1942. © Art Gallery of Ontario, Courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Young girl, 1940-44. © Art Gallery of Ontario, Courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Woman with her child (Ghetto policemen’s family), 1940-42. © Art Gallery of Ontario, Courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Scarecrow with yellow Jude star, 1940-44. © Art Gallery of Ontario, Courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

“Soup for lunch” (Group of men alongside building eating from pails), 1940-44. © Art Gallery of Ontario, Courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Ghetto police escorting residents for deportation, 1942-44. © Art Gallery of Ontario, Courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.