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Free to Use and Reuse: The Photographs of Bernard Gotfryd

LC – “The photographs of Bernard Gotfryd, now free for anyone to use from the Library’s collections, are a remarkable resource of late 20th-century American pop-culture and political life, as he was a Newsweek staff photographer based in New York for three decades. In his work, you’ll find film stars such as Dustin Hoffman on the set of “Midnight Cowboy,” novelists, painters, singers and songwriters, politicians at podiums and any number of passionate people at street protests. Gotfryd, who died in 2016 at the age of 92, left the bulk of his photographs to the Library and designated that his copyright should expire at his death. Gotfryd was a Holocaust survivor. The Germans overran his Polish hometown of Radom days after World War II started. Late in life, he wrote and spoke eloquently about the horrors of those years, touching thousands of listeners and readers. His 1990 book of autobiographical sketches, “Anton the Dove Fancier and Other Tales of the Holocaust,” was written after Newsweek assigned him to photograph fellow Holocaust survivors at a White House ceremony, then sent him back to Poland for the first time since the war to cover a trip by Pope John Paul II, a fellow Pole, to their home country. ”It was a very emotional time, and the memories flooded my mind more than ever,” he told The New York Times in a 1990 article, ”And I remembered my mother, the day she was being deported to the death camp, begging me to stay alive so that one day I could tell the world what the Nazis were doing. When I returned from Poland, I knew that day had come.” Both his parents and grandmother were killed by the Nazis, as were the vast majority of the 33,000 Jews in Radom. Gotfryd worked as a teenage photo-lab apprentice in the Radom Ghetto for four terrifying years. People were shot, hanged, tortured, dragged off to death camps. He saw pictures of all these, as Nazi officers brought pictures of atrocities to his lab to be developed. He leaked copies of those to Alexandra, a young woman in the Polish Resistance, where they were widely circulated. She was killed in the Warsaw Uprising; he was caught and sent to Majdanek, a forced-labor and concentration camp, and then to a succession of five others before being liberated by American troops in May 1945. “People entered the showers, but never came back,” he told students at St. John’s University in 2007. “I imagined that this is what hell looked liked.” He was just 21 when he immigrated to the United States, joined the Army as a combat photographer, and eventually settled in the New York borough of Queens. He married Gina, a fellow death-camp survivor whom he met in New York. They had children and he settled into a job at Newsweek. After he left the magazine 30 years later, he wrote “Anton” and other books about the Holocaust. He published a collection of his photographs, “Intimate Eye: Portraits by Bernard Gotfryd,” in 2006.”

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