Taking Pictures (Margaret Bourke-White at Buchenwald)


This will be my last post about Margaret Bourke-White.  In this photograph, the photographer is photographed taking photographs of dead bodies at Buchenwald. I found the image online, and wanted to share it along with a passage from her 1946 report Dear Fatherland, Rest Quietly: A Report on the Collapse of Hitler’s ‘Thousand Years’ 

Writing about her trip to Buchenwald after liberation, she remembers, “There was an air of unreality about that April day in Weimar, a feeling to which I found myself stubbornly clinging. I kept telling myself that I would believe the indescribably horrible sight in the courtyard before me only when I had a chance to look at my own photographs. Using the camera was almost a relief; it interposed a slight barrier between myself and the white horror in front of me.”

There’s more to photos and information about the liberation of Buchenwald and the reporting about Buchenwald in LIFE magazine here. My own interest here is how media went immediately to work mediating information about the Holocaust. And also the physical situation of the sight, in a courtyard, with the implied sense of an enclosure, in which something terrible comes into view.

In this photograph, we can see how closely the photographer stood to the dead, and the sense of mental and technical distance required to create the shot.



About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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3 Responses to Taking Pictures (Margaret Bourke-White at Buchenwald)

  1. Carol Zemel says:

    who took this picture?

  2. meer says:

    Thanks for this very much. Even just to be reminded of cruelty. Even just to inform someone young who knows nothing of this historical horror. See how the bodies (not at the side of the shack) are chained onto the truck.

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