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“Traces of Memory” is the product of 12 years spent documenting Galicia, a once-thriving region on the border of Poland and Ukraine whose population was destroyed in the Holocaust. The exhibit, which draws from the findings of late British photojournalist Chris Schwarz and University of Birmingham professor Jonathan Weber, shows evidence of genocide, signs of remembrance, and even small elements of revival. Schwarz’s images depict a former synagogue in Rymanow, architecturally distinguished even in its state of roofless ruin; and an empty diagonal slash on a doorpost that once held a mezuzah. Shadows of genocide lurk in a mass grave marked only by “364,” for the number of victims, and in an ordinary-looking field, the former location of a death camp that slaughtered 450,000 people. Galicia’s signs of revival are real, but they don’t always hearken back to the community’s Jewish past; some old buildings have been restored and repurposed for other means. One recurring image is especially poignant: graveyard headstones, many still standing and visited by religious pilgrims, and others expropriated and turned into paving stones. On some, Hebrew letters are still visible. Others were gathered by survivors and assembled into a jagged, disorienting remembrance wall, a symbol for a society irretrievably shattered.
“Traces of Memory: A Contemporary Look at the Jewish Past in Poland” is on view 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fridays to May 21 at the Ann Loeb Bronfman Gallery, 1529 16th St. NW. Free. washingtondcjcc.org. (202) 518-9400.