The Last Folio
Remnants of a Jewish past and one photographer’s personal quest for memories
On a recent visit to the Museu Coleção Berardo, a museum of modern and contemporary art in Lisbon, Portugal, we were fortunate enough to see a temporary exhibition called The Last Folio. This was a profoundly moving exhibit which chronicled a photographer’s personal quest for memories of the Jewish Holocaust.
Photographer Yuri Dojc was born in the former Czechoslovakia. In 1968, Dojc was a young student summering in London when Soviet troops invaded his native country. Dojc became a refugee and eventually made his way to Canada where for several decades since has made Canada his home. Dojc became a photographer, first establishing himself in commercial photography. Later in his career, he shifted his focus to documenting the last Slovakian survivors of the Holocaust, telling their stories through his photography.
In 2005 Dojc met Czechoslovakia-born Katya Krausover, who also had fled her native country in 1968 and settled in the United Kingdom where she became an independent television producer and director. The two teamed up together to produce the Last Folio, a photographic and video documentation of the story of Slovakia’s Holocaust survivors, as well as the numerous schools, cemeteries, and synagogues from once-vibrant Jewish communities, left abandoned to decay, as victims were rounded up by the Germans who hunted down and slaughtered some, and took away others to concentration camps.
A personal quest
Dojc’s parents went into hiding in a house in the village of Uhrovske Podhradie during the war. Dojc had always wondered how his parents had come to be there hiding in that house, but never asked them about it. After the death of Dojc’s father, the story of the Holocaust and those who survived began to interest him. By this time, his mother was too frail to ask her about the past. For Dojc, this project became a personal quest to find answers from the stories and pictures of other survivors.
He begins his photographic journey by visiting the abandoned school in the village of Bardejov, where one day in 1942, the students were taken to concentration camps. From there, he visits many villages and photographs survivors and travels to the ruins of former Jewish communities to find traces of the past. Unexpectedly, Dojc finds a book among the ruins belonging to his grandfather, Jakub Duetsch.
The Last Folio
Standing in front of many of the images in The Last Folio exhibit humbled me. The photography is not only outstanding – the simplicity of the images – from the rotted remnants of books – to the faces of the survivors – all come together to form a stunning photographic visual and poignant reminder that no one should ever forget this travesty of human and religious persecution.
Museu Coleção Berardo, Lisbon, Portugal
The Last Folio