The contemporary Jewish Life in Krakow - Fascination meets Contradiction.
Background and Key Questions
Why do catholic Poles initiate a new Jewish Life in 1989 after the collapse of the Soviet-Union? What does this mean nowadays in the nationalistic “Holocaust Law Era” in Poland? Why do Jews start immigrating again to Poland despite Poland’s genocidal history?
How authentic is a Polish Jewishness that is based on Jews, half Jews and Non-Jews, from abroad and from Poland?
Some authors have made serious attempts to describe this complex phenomena but most of them ended up in one of the predictable clichés: lamentation of the still palpable Holocaust, nostalgia for the Jewish worlds that were destroyed, celebration of the persistence or renewal of Jewish life, and irony––sometimes sarcasm––toward the phenomenon of Jewish tourism, and the commodification of a post-genocidal reality, the so called “Auschwitz Industry”.
I’ve visited Krakow and it’s Jewish quarter Kazimierz regularly in the last four years and I’ve tried to avoid these topoi.
My attempt is to describe this highly complex phenomena by searching in the spaces between the conventional motifs––the elusive nature of the Jewish owing to the neighbourhood’s historical burdens, and the hard-to-define nature of Jewish belonging owing to the challenges that face the Jewish communities of Krakow.
Against the view that Jewishness is an identity that is switched either off or on, I try to show a world in which Jewishness is simultaneously felt and not felt to varying extents, understood and also not understood, affirmed yet not necessarily demonstrated. I photograph my subjects in this special kind of solitude that accompanies such complications, and at times they are imbued with the unique creative energy of inventing and reinventing the Jewish for themselves––by necessity.
The visual story lines attempt to go deeper than the superficial “Jewish-like tourist surfaces”, they should also touch the murkier depths beneath them. On another level, they form a conceptual exploration into the ways that contradictory truths are liable to morph into non-dual truths, and back again.
Copyright Paul Schneller