The “Grodzka Gate – NN Theatre” Centre is a local government cultural institution based in Lublin. It works towards the preservation of cultural heritage and education. Its function is tied to the symbolic and historical meaning of the Centre’s location in the Grodzka Gate, which used to divide Lublin into its respective Christian and Jewish quarters, as well as to Lublin as a meeting place of cultures, traditions and religions.

Part of the Centre are the House of Words and the Lublin Underground Trail.

The “Grodzka Gate – NN Theatre” Centre is a local government cultural institution based in Lublin. It works towards the preservation of cultural heritage and education. Its function is tied to the symbolic and historical meaning of the Centre’s location in the Grodzka Gate, which used to divide Lublin into its respective Christian and Jewish quarters, as well as to Lublin as a meeting place of cultures, traditions and religions.

Part of the Centre are the House of Words and the Lublin Underground Trail.

Collection of glass plate negatives from the house at Rynek 4

Faces of the non-existent town.

Given the scale of destruction visited on the Jewish town and the entire Lublin, it might seem that no meaningful traces of life in the pre-war Polish-Jewish city can be found any more. However, after many years, from a dark hiding place arranged in the attic of a house in Lublin, there emerge the faces of the city’s inhabitants photographed on glass plate negatives before the outbreak of the war. It is because of these faces, captured in sharp focus, that the photographs are so powerful.
 

Basic information about the Collection

In May 2012, the “Grodzka Gate – NN Theatre” Centre received a collection of glass plate negatives found in the house at Rynek 4. The collection consists of more than 2700 glass plate negatives in various sizes: from 6x9 cm to 13x18 cm. The photographs were taken between 1914 and 1939. The collection was found in the attic of the house by workmen doing repairs. The negatives were secured, cleaned, sorted and scanned by Krzysztof Janus, supervisor of the repair work. Then the owners of the house handed over the collection for a 10-year deposit to “Grodzka Gate – NN Theatre” Centre.
 

SCANS OF ALL NEGATIVES ARE AVAILABLE ON THE WEBSITE: www.negatywy.teatrnn.pl

Description of the Collection

The pictures show people, individuals and groups, usually in an indoor or landscape setting, e.g. the interior of the house at Rynek 4 or the Saxon Garden.

Various people appear in the photographs: children and adults, women and men, sitting or standing, with characteristic objects such as a newspaper or badge in the lapel. Photographs of another kind show people at their places of work: individuals or groups representing certain professions. Most of them are tailors, but there are also clerks at their desks. A lot of the portraits show soldiers; some of these pictures were taken in a hospital.

Yet another kind are family photographs documenting social events or major events in the life of a family. These pictures were taken both inside apartments as well as outdoors, e.g. in front of country cottages. In the group photographs identified, you can see the football section of the Morgensztern club, the teachers and students of the Jewish school of the Koach Society in Lublin, and the firemen from Trzciniec and Wola Sernicka.
Although people are the main them of the collection, the photographer also captured an important event in Lublin’s history, the opening of the Yeshiva in 1930. This event is documented with 25 photographs.
Pictures taken probably at the New Jewish Cemetery in Lublin (and one in Wieniawa) are interesting from the documentary perspective. The photographs show gravestones, in some cases with people standing nearby. All the names on the gravestones have been read, and they include: Maria Arnsztajnowa née Peretz (mother-in-law of Franciszka Arnsztajnowa), Bronisława Gerensztajnowa née Logwińska, Sara Fryda Horn, Chaim Israel Fridman, tzadik Magid Admor Jaakow Ari, Rachela Blum, Batszewa, daughter of Aszer Zelig Horowitz, brother of tzadik Admor the Seer of Lublin, Riwka Mitzenmacher, Mosze Breber, Dow Bromels, Rachela Lea Herszenwald, Jehoszua Falik, Chaim Szlomo Tzwi, Risza Rozenbojm. There are 36 photographs showing gravestones.

Only a small number of photographs have inscriptions, and it appears that they were taken not only in Lublin but also in Nowodwór and Nałęczów (handwritten inscriptions). The location can be identified thanks to the signs visible in the photographs as is the case with the firemen from Wola Sernicka and Trzciniec. On several photographs showing soldiers in a hospital, on the white gowns you can see the stamp of District Hospital No. 2 in Chełm.

On a number of photographs there are handwritten initials, probably of the individuals appearing in the pictures: S. Elsenstark, Anna Koniger, I. Soberbaum, S. Zyserman, A. Lederfarb, R. Szajtman, J. Feldman, R. Hepsztejn, R. Wajsman, Jan Borowski, Otwinowska, Melzak, Bilot (or Bilet), Maciej Szirociński, Ch. Frajldlich, Z. Urman, Akerman. One name - Mincman - appears twice.

The photographs also show people working in the field or building a road and bridge, a brickyard, races on a river, a religious ceremony outside a church. You can see vehicles: a fire engine, a rack wagon, a cart, a steam engine.

Author of the Collection

The photographer has not been identified at this stage of research. Archive records do not mention any photographer’s studio in the house at Rynek 4. The author of the pictures could have worked in a studio located somewhere else. The photographer could have been Jewish.

 

Technique

The photographer has not been identified at this stage of research. Archive records do not mention any photographer’s studio in the house at Rynek 4. The author of the pictures could have worked in a studio located somewhere else. The photographer could have been Jewish.

The negatives are glass plate negatives (dry plate developed by Maddox in 1871), mostly in sizes 9x12, 10x15 and 13x18 cm, and mostly produced by Agfa and Alfa (a Bydgoszcz-based company). The negative show traces of retouching done with pencil on the emulsion side and of local colouring done with neo-coccine, a strong, transparent red dye for enhancing contrast or lightening the image on the negative. The negatives prepared by the author of the collection are placed in a film cassette in the darkroom, and then they can be transported and exposed with the need to use a plein-air laboratory.

 

Joanna Zętar, Marcin Sudziński
Translated by: Sławomir Nowodworski

 

Special thanks: Karol Becker, Krzysztof Janus, Krzysztof Jurecki, Anna Kończanin,  Stanisław Pęzioł, WIP sp.z o.o., Magdalena Zabłocka.

 

Project contact person:
Joanna Zętar
Tel.: 81 53 258 67
e-mail: asia@tnn.lublin.pl