Visu­al Arts

Jew­ish Dis­placed Per­sons in Camp Bergen-Belsen 1945 – 1950: The Unique Pho­to Album of Zip­py Orlin

Erik Somers and Rene Kok, eds.
  • Review
By – August 15, 2012
The his­to­ry of Bergen-Belsen Camp in the British Zone had two extremes: death and sur­vival. After the con­cen­tra­tion camp was lib­er­at­ed, the Dis­placed Per­sons Camp was orga­nized as a soci­ety with activ­i­ties in an attempt to reestab­lish a Jew­ish iden­ti­ty for those try­ing to find a new home­land and escape anti-Semi­tism in post­war Europe. 

Zip­py Orlin was a vol­un­teer for the Amer­i­can Jew­ish Joint Dis­tri­b­u­tion Com­mit­tee. She cared for the youngest chil­dren. Her album orig­i­nal­ly had 1,117 pho­tos and weighed 33 pounds. The pho­tos show school, sports, the­ater, and fes­tiv­i­ties of the camp res­i­dents as they regained their lust for life.” 

The pho­tos are arranged by theme, with lit­tle con­cern for chronol­o­gy. Because of Zippy’s work, many pho­tos show smil­ing, healthy chil­dren, even though so many had been orphaned. We see youth­ful appetites and beam­ing faces.” As Elie Wiesel not­ed— Pho­tographs are more evoca­tive than words, any words.” This can be seen in the pho­tos of those depart­ing for Israel. The pho­tos graph­i­cal­ly empha­size the trans­for­ma­tion of those who were the rem­nants of a beat­en peo­ple into a new­ly restored pop­u­la­tion, whose faith in human­i­ty was regained when they left Europe for their new home­land — Israel. 

The brief com­men­taries are sec­ondary to the pho­tos. The upbeat pho­tos are a fit­ting anti­dote to the more wide­ly cir­cu­lat­ed pic­tures of the con­cen­tra­tion camps. Notes.
Arlyne Samuels a grad­u­ate of Brook­lyn Col­lege, taught and super­vised Eng­lish in New York City for 40 years. She was the coor­di­na­tor of the book club of the Greater Worces­ter (MA) Chap­ter of Hadas­sah. Arlyne passed away in May 2009 and will be missed by the Jew­ish Book World team.

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