Photograph taken with a hidden camera by photographer George Kadish (Zvi Kadushin) showing the chairman of the Judenrat in the Kovno ghetto, Dr. Elchanan Elkes, alongside Dr. Moshe Berman - both wearing yellow badges on their clothes. Kovno ghetto, early 1940s.
Dr. Elchanan Elkes [1879-1944] was a physician, Zionist activist and chairman of the Judenrat in the Kovno ghetto. Born in Kalvarija, Lithuania, his father was a rabbi and gave him a traditional religious education. In 1923, he was appointed head of the internal medicine department at the Jewish "Bikur Holim" hospital in Kovno. He also worked as a physician at the German embassy in Kovno and was the personal physician of the ambassador. He was considered one of the best doctors in Lithuania. Elkes was actively involved in the Zionist movement and with ties to HeHalutz youth group and was involved in the cultural activities of the Jewish community. After the Soviet invasion of Lithuania in June 1940 he used his Soviet government connections to issue thousands of exit visas for Polish Jewish refugees who had fled to Lithuania after the Nazi invasion in September 1939. On June 24, 1941 Kovno was occupied by the Nazis. Despite offers of foreign diplomatic visas, Elkes refused to leave and decided to remain in the city. At the request of the town rabbi of Shanz, Elkes took on the role of Judenrat chairman, a position he held throughout the ghetto's existence and earned great esteem. The Jewish Council operated welfare systems for the ghetto population and maintained close ties with the anti-Nazi resistance leadership, even providing material assistance to partisan fighters who fled to the forests. Elkes also headed the organization of Williampola Zionist Center Kovna , an underground organization coordinating Zionist groups' activities in the ghetto. In 1944, as the Red Army approached Kovno, the remaining Jews after the mass deportations were transferred to the Dachau concentration camp's Kaufering subcamp in Bavaria. There Elkes was placed in charge of the sick barrack but fell ill himself and passed away. His wife Miriam was sent to Stutthof concentration camp where she survived until liberation.
Photographer Zvi Kadushin (1915-1997) A resident of the city of Kovna, he was a photography enthusiast who secretly managed to photograph around 6,000 photos within the Kovno ghetto. His work as an X-ray technician at a German military hospital provided him access to photographic materials and processing. He developed techniques for hiding his camera and taking photos discreetly through clothing. His famous photos depict Jews concentrated behind ghetto fences, people with their belongings, forced laborers, murders, children, elderly women and more - some looking directly at the camera. Kadushin also photographed the deportations of Jews to labor camps in Riga and Estonia and concentration camps. He hid his photographs and himself before the ghetto's liquidation, surviving along with part of his collection. After Germany's surrender in May 1945 he traveled from Lithuania to the American occupation zone in Germany, reaching the Landsberg displaced persons camp where he remained until 1946, continuing to document camp life. He later immigrated to New York working as an engineer and inventor. In 1982 he donated a sizable portion of his collection to Beit Hatfutsut archive including about 2,000 negatives from the Kovno ghetto between 1942-1944 and around 1,000 photos from the Landsberg DP camp (1945-1946).
17x11 cm. Good condition.