The Arty Semite

Munich Photographers in Palestine

By Benjamin Ivry

  • Print
  • Share Share
Courtesy Kehrer Verlag

From February 10 through May 23, “Unexposed: Munich Photographers in Exile,” a compelling exhibit at Munich’s Jewish Museum, focused on the art and fate of three photographers who fled Germany for Palestine in the 1930s, thereby remaining mostly unknown in their native land.

Alfons Himmelreich (1904-1993), Efrem Ilani (1910-1999), and Jakob Rosner (1902-1950) all became pioneering photographers in Israel, as the exhibit’s lavish catalog from Kehrer Verlag demonstrates. The trio proved, as Rosner wrote in 1944, that “more than any other medium, photography has the power to give expression to the psychological or artistic value of a deed.”

In this case, the deed was the founding of the state of Israel. Rosner took photographs for the Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael – Jewish National Fund (KKL), including the iconic image, “Child with Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael Collection Box, c. 1945.” Honored with a 1944 exhibit of his photographs at the Bezalel Museum, the tragically short-lived Rosner left behind a still-unpublished book-length photo essay, “Homecoming from Arabia,” showing the 1949 exodus of Yemenite Jews to Israel during the so-called Operation Magic Carpet.

By contrast, Himmelreich dwelt more on societal, rather than historical, activities, capturing the experience of window-shopping in Tel Aviv around 1945 for baked goods, men’s hats, and ladies’ fur coats. A 1939 image by Himmelreich, “The Dawidowicz Child, Tel Aviv, 1939,” shows a tiny, yet independent and athletic youngster leaping aboard a public bus, showing vigor and self-reliance in the nation-to-be.

Ilani made industrial images his specialty. In addition to sober photos of farming and road construction, he also immortalized the 1951 opening ceremony for the Beit Ussishkin Nature Museum at Etzba Hagalil in the Upper Galilee.

In addition to its focus on these three artists, the exhibit catalog also includes an appendix about Munich photographers who were murdered in the Holocaust, like Mary Hausner, Fritz Joelsohn, and Stephanie Ludwig-Held. Still others were forced into exile, where they often abandoned photography, like Trude Kahn, who vanished after reaching Medellín, Colombia, in 1936, or Ruth Kraemer, who became a longtime staffer at New York’s Morgan Library.

Few, in any event, had as artistically gratifying accomplishments in store as did Himmelreich, Ilani and Rosner.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Photography, Munich, Jewish National Fund, Jakob Rosner

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.