Jewish Museum in Berlin, Germany

Jewish Museum in Berlin, Germany

The zinc-clad, jagged structure of the Jewish Museum in Berlin is likened to a deconstructed Star of David, which I find genius. Zig zagging turns, slopes, voids all designed by Daniel Libeskind, a Polish-Jewish architect based in the U.S. His idea was to invoke disorientation, loss and the destruction of Jewish Life. Every facet of the museum from the plan, shape, style, interior and exterior arrangement of the building are part of a complicated philosophical programme to illustrate the history and culture of Germany’s Jewish community and the repercussions of the Holocaust.

I purposely set out early in the morning so I could savor the silence before I entered the space located in what was West Berlin before the fall of the Wall. I believe that a Jewish Museum in Berlin offers not just a memorial but dedication to the rebirth of the Jewish people and their history. The Jewish Museum (Jüdisches Museum) has succeeded. Every place I visit, every word I write and every time I share, I honor the memory of my father, who survived eight Nazi forced labor camps.

©  hannah kozak

Entrance to The Jewish Museum – Berlin, Germany (Jüdisches Museum Berlin)

© hannah kozak

Jewish Museum – Berlin, Germany

In March 1939, the Berlin couple Ruth & Wolfgang Prager, sent their children on a transport to Sweden. Because Ruth required treatment in a sanitarium, she and Wolfgang put off emigrating until it was too late. In October 1941, they were deported to the Lodz ghetto, where they died the following year. Here is the letter they sent to their children.

© hannah kozak


“My dear children, I don’t know what to tell you because my heart is so full and words are so small and say so little. I had always hoped that we would be reunited but we are probably at a fateful juncture just now.”

© hannah kozak

Windows in the main building seen from the interior.

 © hannah kozak

Farewell scene,
Julius Rosenbaum
(1879-1956)
Berlin, 1934, chalk
The drawing shows Jewish emigrants departing from the Anhalter Bahnhof in Berlin.

© hannah kozak

When Hitler came into Power, Felix Nussbaum was on a scholarship in Rome. He did not return to Germany, but went via Switzerland and France to Belgium. After the invasion of the German troops, Nussbaum was arrested and interned in Southern France. He fled and, together with his wife, hid in Brussels. In July 1944, both were deported to Auschwitz & murdered.
Nussbaum’s late paintings tell of the period of persecution, of life in the camps, & living illegally.
“You call out and shout but not an echo returns.” wrote Nussbaum in 1937 in a letter to Ludwig Meidner.

© hannah kozak

The public debate about the murder of European Jews began in the courtroom. In 1958, German authorities started systematically investigating Nazi criminals. However, these investigations only seldom resulted in indictments. There was a lack of concrete evidence that could be used to prove suspects were personally responsible for murder. As a result, most of the charges had to be dropped. On the other hand, the court proceedings also served as a means of researching and documenting events that had taken place in the camps.
The Frankfurt Auschwitz Trial (1963-1965) ended the long silence about Nazi trials. Over 200 camp survivors gave testimony. International media reported from the courtroom.
The Dusseldorf Majdanek trial (1975-1981) was the longest trial ever held in a German court.

The Holocaust tower is a void of intimidating height with no windows, blank walls and a small slit just under the ceiling which allows in a tiny amount of light and amplifies the outside sounds. Being in this room one is completely separated from the rest of the museum (and world) which invokes a feeling of isolation while feeling the cold. This room is best visited alone to receive the full experience. It felt like having a moment, one tiny space of what it must have been like to be a prisoner in a camp, being incarcerated by the Nazis. Victor Frankl wrote of camp inmates experiencing shock, apathy, and depersonalization in Man’s Search for Meaning. I remember my father, when interviewed for Spielberg’s Shoah project, cried and explained that he choose not to share with his children when we were young because “I didn’t want them to know the suffering I went through.” The heavy door is opened and I couldn’t get out fast enough. As a second generation survivor, I experienced a brief feeling of discomfort that can never, ever come close to what my father experienced in the labor camps for years.

© hannah kozak

Inside the Holocaust Tower.

© hannah kozak

Inside the Holocaust Tower

© hannah kozak

Inside the Holocaust Tower

The Jewish Museum is dedicated to 2,000 years of history, culture and traditions of the Jewish communities in Germany. I loved the physical voids that Libeskind created throughout the building. These so-called voids extend vertically throughout the entire museum and represent the absence of Jews from German society.

The Memory Void contains a work by the Israeli artist Menace Kadishman, who calls his installation, “Shalekhet,” or “Fallen Leaves.” He has dedicated the over 10,000 faces covering the floor not only to Jews killed during the Shoah but to all innocent victims of war and violence. These 10,000 faces punched out of steel are distributed on the ground of the Memory Void. You can walk on the faces and listen to the sounds created by the metal sheets as they clang and rattle against each other. I think it’s powerful and made to unnerve.

© hannah kozak


© hannah kozak

hannah kozak – Self Portrait at
Menace Kadishman’s Shalekhet – Fallen Leaves

The Garden of Exile is forty-nine tilted pillars to represent the foundation of the state of Israel in 1948 plus one for Berlin. The garden symbolizes the forced exile of Germany’s Jews. There are concrete columns with oleaster (which look like olive but are wild) trees surrounding them. It’s not truly a garden to relax in and that’s precisely the point and intention.

© hannah kozak


Garden of Exile:
49 tilted pillars to represent the foundation of the state of Israel in 1948 plus one for Berlin. The garden symbolizes the forced exile of Germany’s Jews.

© hannah kozak

My prayer for my mother. I believe in miracles.

As I exited the museum and began to find the train station that I came from, I began my solitary walk looking at people, trees, sidewalks, cafes, buses, bicyclists. Walking helps me to simultaneously quiet my mind while thinking. My thoughts flow better when I am moving my legs. Walking helps me reclaim myself as I am recently overworked, which feels like self escape. Unable to turn off the demands at work by not switching off my phone, I am invigorated by walking and being disconnected. I am inspired by the cold air and rain and relish the surprises I find when simply wandering. I have always been motivated to photograph exactly what my eyes see.

© hannah kozak

As I was leaving the Jewish Museum.

In Augustiner’s Restaurant, I was captivated by these two men’s faces while the Festival of Lights was endlessly compelling.

© hannah kozak

Augustiner’s Restaurant

© hannah kozak

Berlin Festival of Lights

© hannah kozak

Self Portrait – Jewish Museum

“A Jew must believe in miracles. If a Jew doesn’t believe in miracles, he is not a realist.” – Simon Wiesenthal

Jewish Museum in Berlin, Germany


4th edition of the Biennial of Fine Art and Documentary Photography – Berlin Foto Biennale 2016

4th Edition of Biennial of Fine Art & Documentary Photography

Throughout October 2016 Berlin welcomes once again the largest German festival for photography–the 7th European Month of Photography. The Grand opening of the 4th Biennial is at the elegant Palazzo Italia, situated in the historic heart of of Berlin as Associated Partner of the EMOP Berlin the first edition of the Berlin Foto Biennale.

© hannah kozak

Olivia always finds her way!


I have the honor of being one of the finalists in the 7th Edition of the Julia Margaret Cameron Award for Female Photographers in the Nude and Figure category. One of my photos from my Pain and Loneliness series was chosen to be on exhibit.

@ hannah kozak

Pain and Loneliness 33

I’m also honored to be included in the special section about the Holocaust and Second Generation with works by Aliza Augustine, Hannah Kozak, Sebastian Holzknecht, Beth Bursting, Vienne Rea and Quyen Pfeiffer. I was also given the honor of 1st prize documentary photo from the series He Threw the Last Punch Too Hard and 1st prize children’s category. Show opened on October 6, 2016 and will run through October 30.

@ hannah kozak

Auschwitz-Birkenau, Belzec, Sobibor Triptych
by hannah kozak.

Five of my images from my ongoing series–He Threw the Last Punch Too Hard were finalists in the 8th Edition of the Julia Margaret Cameron Award.

@ hannah kozak

He Threw the Last Punch Too Hard

@ hannah kozak

He Threw the Last Punch Too Hard

@ hannah kozak

He Threw the Last Punch Too Hard

@ hannah kozak

He Threw the Last Punch Too Hard

© hannah kozak

He Threw the Last Punch Too Hard

Here are some other photographer’s works from the Binnial 2016.

© hannah kozak

Marea Reed, Australia
Mareareed.com
Cooling the Blood, 2014

Mareareed.com

© hannah kozak

Boguslaw Maslak,
bobbyart.com
United Kingdom
Spirit of Ganges, 2013

Bobbyart.com

© hannah kozak

Isabel Karl-Herunter
Austria
Back to Paradise, 2014

© hannah kozak

Marilyn Maxwell,
United States
MarilynMaxwellphoto.com
Long Reach, 2014, Tanzania

Marilynmaxwellphoto.com

© hannah kozak

Chris Scavotto

© hannah kozak

Aline Smithson,
Alinesmithson.com
Lucy in Turquoise, 2013

Alinesmithson.com

© hannah kozak

Sebastian Holzknecht,
sebastianholzknecht.com
Jacek, from the series “Not Guilty”

sebastianholzknecht.com

© hannah kozak

Andrea Star Reese,
United States
Andreastarreese.com
Disorder 01, 2010

andreastarreese.com

©hannah kozak

Steve McCurry,
Walking on High Ground, Bangladesh, 1983

© hannah kozak

Karmen Corak, Italy
CL1, 2014, Spain

https://www.facebook.com/karmen.corak

4th Edition of Biennial of Fine Art & Documentary Photography


Finding my way around Berlin, Germany

Finding my way around Berlin, Germany

I traveled to Berlin for the opening of the Berlin Foto Biennial 2016, where I am part of the Second Generation Holocaust photographers exhibit with a triptych from my seven year, ongoing series called Survivor, a study on my father’s survival of eight Nazi forced labor camps.

© hannah kozak

Another reason for Berlin’s appeal for me is its volatility, its traumatic history. I feel a Berlin traumatized by its historical suffering, its emotional past. There is almost a haunting aspect to the city. A city where Hitler came to power in 1933, the site of the infamous Olympic games in 1936, Kristallnacht – where Jewish properties were attacked and set on fire in 1938, Hitler’s headquarters–and the place where the Führer took his last breath & World War II from 1938 to 1945. A city where a 96.2 miles long wall divided family and friends for 28 years, the only border fortification in history built to keep people from leaving rather than to protect them. Berlin is a capital that has been the most powerful and also fallen to the lowest of lows. Yet Berlin is also a city of tolerance, liberalism, a center of the arts and truly a cutting edge cultural center of Europe.

© hannah kozak

The remains of the Wall. It was officially referred to as the “Anti-Fascist Protective Wall.” Built overnight starting 13 August 1961. The wall completely cut off West Berlin from surrounding East Germany until it was opened in November 1989. (The actual demolition did not begin until the summer of 1990 and was completed in 1992.)

I spent time years ago in Frankfurt, when I was working in the publishing world and attended the annual Frankfurt Book Fair but Frankfurt does not hold the appeal for me that Berlin does. Berlin is tucked away in the north-eastern area of Germany and is only 49.7 miles from another favorite place I love–Poland.

As I walk along Friedrichstrasse, I think about the great German artist Käthe Kollwitz, regarded as the most important German artist of the twentieth century who worked with drawing, etching, lithography, woodcuts, painting, printmaking and sculpture. Käthe Kollwitz captured the hardships suffered by the working class in drawings, paintings, and prints. She went to Munich to study at the Women’s Art School. She didn’t want to be controlled by her father and also wanted freedom as a married woman.

The death of her youngest son in battle in 1914 profoundly affected her, and she expressed her grief in another cycle of prints that treat the themes of a mother protecting her children and of a mother with a dead child. Kollwitz lost her husband in 1940, her grandson during WWII in 1942. She created timeless art works after suffering a life of great sorrow and heartache believing that art not only can but should change the world. Kollwitz created art that stirred emotions, incited action and served the people.For twelve years; from 1924 to 1932 Kollwitz also worked on a granite monument for her son, which depicted her husband and herself as grieving parents. In 1932 it was erected as a memorial in a cemetery near Ypres, Belgium. Her art did not serve the state thus Hitler hated what she created. In 1936 she was barred by the Nazis from exhibiting, her art classified as degenerate and was removed from galleries. Kollwitz said “All my work hides within in life itself, and it is with life that I contend through my work.”

Käthe Kollwitz-Woman w/dead child - 1903.

Käthe Kollwitz-Woman w/dead child – 1903.

I also think of The Berlin Trilogy–David Bowie’s creative apex where he wrote three consecutively released studio albums that Bowie referred to as his DNA: Low (1977), Heroes (1977) and Lodger (1979). Bowie moved to Berlin to escape the drug scene in Los Angeles (yet fell back on his bad habits initially). Berlin became Bowie’s sanctuary because he could be more anonymous there than in Los Angeles. His genius was his constant desire to reinvent himself. Low and Heroes were both recorded at Hansa Studios, known then as “Hansa by the Wall” because the Berlin Wall could be seen from the control room. I loved Lodger, a concept album about a homeless traveler. I can still hear the lyrics from Breaking Glass on the Low album. “You’re such a wonderful person, but you got problems.” I always loved Bowie because he rejected conformity, truly he was out of the box.

David Bowie - Low

David Bowie – Low – Released 14 January 1977

David Bowie - Heroes

David Bowie – Heroes – Released 14 October 1977

David Bowie - Lodger

David Bowie – Lodger – Released 14 January 1979

The nights were cold and windy and often rainy yet I feel invigorated coming from the recent relentless heat and two hour daily commutes in Los Angeles. Instead of sitting in a car for hours of traffic, I am free to roam about walking from trains to trams to underground travel.

© hannah kozak

Oranienburg Straße ( a street in central Berlin located in the borough of Mitte, north of the River Spree and runs south-east) & Friedrichstraße.) A major culture and shopping street in central Berlin, which forms the core of the Friedrichstraße neighborhood. It runs from the Northern part of the old Mitte district.

I chose the Melia Berlin Hotel for multiple reasons but mainly for the location along the river Spree, on the corner of Friedrichstrasse and Am Weidendamn and only 100 meters from Friedrichstraße Station which provided me with great underground, city rail, and tram links to all parts of Berlin. Not to mention their restaurant with an extensive menu of Spanish tapas which is one of my favorite ways to eat in the world. I ended up never eating at the tapas bar because I was enjoying the German food so much.

© hannah kozak

Meliá Berlin Hotel adjacent to the River Spree on Friedrichstraße 103.

S-Bahnhof Friedrichstraße Station used to be the border station between East and West Berlin. Built in 1882 to a design by Johannes Vollmer, a roof was added in 1925 that covers the hall and & the platforms. The only remaining structure from the original station is the special pavilion once used as a waiting room by those waiting for emigration clearance. The nickname of “Palace of Tears” refers to Berliners from different sides of the city would say goodbye to each other after a visit.

© hannah kozak

Friedrichstrasse Main Station – It is located on the Friedrichstraße, a major north-south street in the Mitte district of Berlin, adjacent to the point where the street crosses the Spree river

I ventured out in the rain (it is a venture because of my cameras) to find the Brandenburg Gate, an 18th century neoclassical monument and symbol of European unity and peace. The site of major historical events, it is considered a symbol of the tumultuous history of Europe and Germany. It is truly the quintessential symbol of Berlin and one of the few remaining historic city gates. I had the bonus of being there during Berlin’s Festival of Lights– famous landmarks beautifully lit up by lights.

© hannah kozak

Brandenburg Tor – Lit up for the Festival of Lights 2016

The gate is one block south to the Holocaust Memorial or Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe; a truly radical concept for a memorial. The construction of this memorial for the Jews killed by the Nazis between 1933 and 1945 began April 1, 2003 and was finished December 15, 2004. Designed by US architect Peter Eisenmann, it covers 205,000 square feet. It’s above ground, an undulating field of 2,711 visible, graffiti-resistant coating concrete slabs which you can enter from all sides and walk through. They are organized in rows, 54 of them going north–south, and 87 heading east–west at right angles but set slightly askew. The memorial leaves you to contemplate the meaning of the design. I returned multiple times during the day and the evening. Rain slowly flowing down the slabs looked like tears to me.

© hannah kozak

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

© hannah kozak

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (also known as the Holocaust Memorial) created by architect Peter Eisenman and engineer Buro Happold. Building began 1 April 2003, and finished 15 December 2004. Designed to produce an uneasy, confusing atmosphere.
I made this photo with my Rolleiflex,and included the green tree to show that even though millions of Jews were murdered including all my father’s family, we always stand tall again.

Around the corner is the Hotel Adlon, which opened its doors in 1907. It was largely destroyed in 1945, in the closing days of World War II. The new building is a design largely inspired by the original, other sources say only loosely inspired by the original. Only a two minute walk from the Brandenburg Gate and three minutes from the Berlin Wall, Greta Garbo and Charlie Chaplin stayed here but my real reason for wanting to view it was because Michael Jackson stayed in the presidential suite. On Tuesday, Nov 19, 2002, he was caught up in the moment and showed his baby nicknamed Blanket to the fans waving below his balcony.

Here are some photos I made my first day and night wandering the streets in Berlin.

© hannah kozak

En route to the Brandenburg Gate.

© hannah kozak

I love birds and their shadows.

© hannah kozak

Vaporetto Restaurant- A dear friend introduced me to this Italian restaurant on Albrechtstraße 12.

© hannah kozak

Heading back to my hotel from Vaporetto Restaurant.

© hannah kozak

Wandering the streets en route to the Spree River.

© hannah kozak

Rainy night in Berlin

© hannah kozak

The River Spree

“Berlin -The greatest cultural extravaganza that one could imagine.”
David Bowie

Finding my way around Berlin, Germany


The Love Continues for Michael Jackson 7 Years Later

The Love Continues for Michael Jackson 7 Years Later

© hannah kozak

My MJ dolls

© hannah kozak

Homemade card at Forest Lawn 23 June 2016

Every year since Michael Jackson left us, I enter Forest Lawn cemetery in Glendale, on June 25. This year I am overwhelmed and amazed by the 10,547 roses thoughtfully placed for Michael like a big beautiful blanket surrounding all the other gifts for him from individuals near and far. The roses are a coordinated effort by Robyn Starkand’s group: One Rose for Michael Jackson. Robyn then undertakes more thought and work by paying the roses forward to various charities such as St. Vincent’s Meals on Wheels sister Alice Marie, Ronald McDonald House, Veterans LA and the Jewish Home for the Aged.

© hannah kozak

The arrival of roses from One Rose for Michael Jackson – created and organized by Robyn Starkand.

© hannah kozak

A fan helping set up the roses.

© hannah kozak

Forest Lawn – 25 June 2016

@ hannah kozak

Hannah_Kozak_One_Rose_for_MJ_June_24__2016-5390

© hannah kozak

Robyn Starkand w/Sister Alice Marie of St. Vincent’s.

© hannah kozak

More roses off to charity.

Rumi wrote that the wound is where the light enters you. Michael’s light continues to light the way for his soldiers of love, on the seventh anniversary of his departure from this earthly plane. The media tore Michael apart with abusive allegations when he became a record-breaking force. Michael’s death triggered a deep genetic pain in me. The search for the truth about Michael became my obsession. It ignited a sense of tragic injustice that I felt as a child from being Jewish and having had my entire family on my father’s side killed in the Holocaust. Michael’s death also stirred the hurt and injustice I felt from having watched my mother’s abuse.

© hannah kozak

@ hannah kozak

Samira Landau from France – This is her 4th trip to California to pay respects to Michael

@ hannah kozak

Tonia Kelly – Atlanta, Georgia – This is her 7th trip, she began coming for the trial in 2005.

© hannah kozak

Beautiful, hand made card left at Forest Lawn on 23 June 2016

© hannah kozak

Joly, May, Queenie, Jessica travel from Hong Kong every year to bring Michael a flower board made with love.

© hannah kozak

From the fans in China.

© hannah kozak

© hannah kozak

Musical flowers

© hannah kozak

@ hannah kozak

© hannah kozak

The Messenger of Love

© hannah kozak

The seventh child was not concerned about the expectations of others. He was listening to the music of life. His ideas and creativity were boundless. His joy came from expressing his connection to his soul, and sharing his gifts with others. His dream was to allow the magic and the wonder that he saw, to reveal the harmony and love in all of creation. If people could feel their connection to the oneness of life, the world could once again be a place of freedom and joy. The seventh joy demonstrated this truth, through his life and his art. He danced, sang, and spoke of peace, love, oneness and caring for the land and one another. Thank u Michael. You know u saved me.

The terrorist’s attacks in Orlando, Florida less than two weeks ago hardened my heart briefly. But, I am reminded of Michael’s pleas for a better future for our world. He kept his heart open and soft, even in the face of harsh media lies and public scorn – ever reminding me the importance of keeping your heart open because holding hatred in one’s heart only damages our souls. The media continues to publish totally baseless smear stories in an attempt to defame Michael. As true followers who understand his never-ending love and innocence for children, we continue to stand firmly and defend him against the recycled accusations. Someday the lies about Michael won’t trend, only his legacy. I personally will keep working tirelessly to remind the world who he was; an innocent humanitarian.

© hannah kozak

Roses from China

© hannah kozak

Left – Fumiyo from Tokyo, Japan.
Right – Biki Zennhoji from Osaka, Japan

© hannah kozak

© hannah kozak

Joly – Hong Kong

© hannah kozak

Miranda Yuen – Hong Kong

© hannah kozak

May Cheng – Hong Kong

© hannah kozak

Fanny – Hong Kong

© hannah kozak

May Cheng – Hong Kong

© hannah kozak

I love the artistry behind each and every card.

© hannah kozak

© hannah kozak

Desde Chile – From Chile With Love

© hannah kozak

Quote from Frank Cascio

© hannah kozak

© hannah kozak

Quote from Diana Dawn DiAngelo

© hannah kozak

How cute is this from Mickey Mail?

© hannah kozak

© hannah kozak

I was happy to see the fans from Japan who make the trip every year to deliver this hand made quilt. They work as a team with each person working on one piece, on weekends over the year. Today, they took a taxi from Hollywood to deliver it to Forest Lawn. They delivered a message to me from June, who usually comes. “Thank you and I love you.”

© hannah kozak

Quilt from Japan
Left to Right:
1. Yoko Abe
2. Aki Ko Kanazawa – “Michael’s smile gives me power.”
3. Yuki Otsuki
4. Tomoe Tokuda.

Here’s are closeups of inserts of the truly beautiful quilt.

© hannah kozak

Asuka

 © hannah kozak

Chisato

© hannah kozak

© hannah kozak

© hannah kozak

© hannah kozak

Ayako

 © hannah kozak

© hannah kozak

Aki & Yukiko

© hannah kozak

Chisato

© hannah kozak

Yurika – I’m truly glad that I met you. To me, you are like the air. You are necessary for us. I love you.

© hannah kozak

© hannah kozak

© hannah kozak

Dolls from Japan.

 © hannah kozak

10 year old Timothy discovered Michael when he was 5. He said “I dance, I sing and I love him”. When I asked him why he loved Michael he said “Because he was kind.”

© hannah kozak

© hannah kozak

Another quilt from Japan.

© hannah kozak

Quilt close up

© hannah kozak

© hannah kozak

© hannah kozak

© hannah kozak

© hannah kozak

© hannah kozak

Flowers from France

© hannah kozak

“How could I lead my life so that every cell of living matter was also benefited?” – Michael Jackson

© hannah kozak

© hannah kozak

The ocean of cards, flowers, teddy bears and love from fans from around the world to honor him makes it clear that Michael is going to be remembered not for the lies that were told about him, but for the great artist and human being that he was. The media went to great lengths to hoodwink the general public, but the informed readers and fans know better. Michael Jackson asked hard questions of everyone, yet he didn’t preach. That is part of the reason why we loved him and continue to love him. He was a transcendent being, gentle as a butterfly, with boundless generosity. An example of a creative whose life was inspired by curiosity not fear. He saw the beauty in each and every leaf. Michael flew away too soon. We loved and continue to love him for his heart and his art.

I used to dream
I used to glance beyond the stars
Now I don’t know where we are
Although I know we’ve drifted far

The Love Continues for Michael Jackson 7 Years Later


Warsaw in Winter part two

Warsaw in Winter part two

Photography is a meditation for me. After spending time working on set surrounded by a crew of nearly one hundred people twelve hours a day, for months, I find that photography allows me quiet to recharge my soul. I cannot tidy up my father’s past: I am in Poland to continue my project on the eight forced labor camps he was in. But, before I begin my work, I allow myself to wander about Warsaw; one of my favorite cities in Europe.

© hannah kozak

Old Town in Warsaw, Poland
1/280 sec @ f 2.8, ISO 800 23.4mm

© hannah kozak

Fuji X-T1, 16mm,
1/280 sec @ f 2.8, ISO 800

@ hannah kozak

Fuji X-T1, 16 mm
1/125 sec @ f 2.8, ISO 800

@ hannah kozak

Fuji X-T1, 16mm
1/125 sec @ f 2.8, ISO 800

@ hannah kozak

Fuji X-T1, 16mm
1/450 sec @ f 2.8, ISO 800

@ hannah kozak

Fuji X-T1, 16mm
1/450 sec @ f 2.8, ISO 800

@ hannah kozak

Fuji X-T1, 17mm
1/600 sec @ f 2.8, ISO 800

Fuji X-T1, 35.3 mm 1/450 sec @ f 2.8, ISO 800

Fuji X-T1, 35.3 mm
1/450 sec @ f 2.8, ISO 800

The oldest part of Warsaw is Old Town; bounded by the bank of the Vistula river along with Grodzka, Mostowa, and Podwale Streets. I made these photos while wandering through the heart of the area which is Old Town Market Place. From the surrounding streets I saw medieval architecture while the area is full of restaurants, cafes and shops. And, wherever I travel, I plan on visiting UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites; and Warsaw is one of them. More than 85% of Old Town was deliberately destroyed by Nazi troops during the war. Warsaw is a near-total reconstruction of a span of history from the 13th to the 20th century. I love watching people while walking around.

@ hannah kozak

Fuji X-T1, 17.6 mm
1/250 sec @ f 2.8, ISO 6400

@ hannah kozak

Fuji X-T1, 24.2mm
1/15 sec @ f 6.4, ISO 400

The Holocaust committed by the Nazis turned this country, where most of the European Jews used to live and where their culture used to flourish, into a massive grave. This is why initiatives to revive Jewish culture in Poland is so important.

Marek Belka

Warsaw in Winter part two


Warsaw in Winter

Warsaw in Winter

Traveling to Poland for Christmas was a decision I made for a few distinct reasons. One, it was a postmortem readjustment to my father’s death. I had been to Poland before, both times in the spring, in May but I wanted to have the winter light in my photos on this trip. I wanted to feel the deathly cold winter of Poland, like my father did.

I went to Poland to continue my documentary on my father, a survivor of eight Nazi forced labor camps. Because my father passed away on Christmas, I wanted to awaken in his country, on the third anniversary of his death, to help me deal with a grief too deep for tears while simultaneously feeling a near-umbilical attachment to this country I love, a country with a past filled with too much sadness to ever understand.

© hannah kozak

I arrived on Christmas Eve. After a Polish man kindly helped me figure out how to buy a bus ticket from the ticket booth (I’m not a fan of cabs) I sat on my bus seat, staring out of the windows for a familiar site. When I exited at Warsaw University, I had the surprise of seeing purple and white holiday decorations– instead of the customary red and green in Los Angeles– leading into Old Town, where I like to stay. The location opening on Castle Square overlooked the Vistula River and granted a stunning view of Old Town. I heard the bell chimes of the Royal Castle, which was rebuilt only thirty years ago after being destroyed by the Nazis during WWII. In my small, quiet hotel room, I have a desk to write at as well as two bay windows to look out of where I photographed the view of the Vistula River and the changing light, throughout the day and night.

© hannah kozak

Krakowskie Przedmiescie & Plac Pilsudskiego, Warsaw

© hannah kozak

View of Vistula River in Old Town
Fuji XT1 w/16-55mmF2.8 LM WR

© hannah kozak

Old Town – Warsaw, Poland
Fuji XT1 w/16-55mmF2.8 LM WR

I was in so much anguish on this third trip to Poland. My cat Jackson died suddenly three days after I arrived in Warsaw and I was alone in my hotel room. “No! No! No!” I screamed, in part because I was in shock and in part because I thought I could undue it all. I didn’t want to leave my hotel room yet I also needed the freezing cold air of Warsaw to help me breathe as I avoided making eye contact with strangers. I felt so useless to Jackson that all I could do was chant. I had left him at the vet and that was the last time I saw him. I was processing regret at leaving my companion with a specialist that I didn’t know but who said he would heal my little friend. My pain was profoundly humbling. The only thing I could come up with to self soothe was mantra so I played it nightly.

The state of grief continued as I traveled through Poland, seeing and experiencing Poland, in that emotional state. Something about the death of Jackson helped me get in touch with my father’s tremendous losses. Grief is grief and it colors everything.

© hannah kozak

Jackson – 3 days before he passed.

Jackson brought me infinite joy. I loved the sound of his paws hitting the hard wood floors in the morning as he and his brother ran to the kitchen, eager for breakfast. He used to plead with me to let him go outside and only liked being hugged on the futon in the television room. He’s gone but the memories of him will stay with me like a faded photograph.

@ hannah kozak

Michael & Jackson – 1 Nov 2011

@ hannah kozak

M & J – 17 Nov 2011

© hannah kozak

M & J – 16 April 2012

© hannah kozak

Michael and Jackson – 22 May 2012

© hannah kozak

Jackson & Michael – 4 Jan 2013

I experienced grief and joy simultaneously at retracing my father’s footsteps through war torn Poland as I mourned the loss of my friend and didn’t sleep well for eight nights.

Prior to World War II, Warsaw was the leading center of secular Jewish culture in Eastern Europe. At one time, only New York had a larger Jewish population. I could imagine the diverse vitality of Jewish life here. From Warsaw’s turbulent history to the beauty of the rebuilt city, I was inspired. From the hot bowls of soup served with fresh baguettes to the sound of the language I don’t understand but resonate with, to the architecture of Gothic buildings made of brick and to cathedrals made of stone and Romanesque architecture and the kindness from strangers I am repeatedly impressed with, Poland has a piece of my tired and hurting heart.

On a side note, I was able to put the Fuji XT1 to use. This is a photographer’s camera and one of many cool features, it is weather resistant, which helped a lot in the cold of Poland. It’s responsive and I’m impressed with this mirrorless camera. There was no giant learning curve, it’s as intuitive as my Nikon FM from back in the 1980’s. No more lugging around DSLR’s.

© hannah kozak

Old Town, Warsaw
Fuji XT1 w/16-55mmF2.8 LM WR

© hannah kozak

Warsaw, Poland
Fuji XT1 w/16-55mmF2.8 LM WR

© hannah kozak

Warsaw, Poland
Fuji XT1 w/Fujinon XF16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR

© hannah kozak

Warsaw, Poland
Fuji XT1 w/XF 16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR

@ hannah kozak

My favorite restaurant for soup and bread.
Fuji XT1 w/Fujinon XF 16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR

@ hannah kozak

Warsaw, Poland
Fuji XT1 w/Fujinon XF 16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR

 © hannah kozak

Warsaw, Poland
Fuji XT1 w/Fujinon XF 16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR

© hannah kozak

I love getting around Poland via buses & trains.
Fuji XT1 w/Fujinon XF 16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR

© hannah kozak

Warsaw, Poland
Fuji XT1 w/Fujinon XF 16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR

© hannah kozak

Dusk in Warsaw, Poland
Fuji XT1 w/Fujinon XF 16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR

© hannah kozak

Directly outside Old Town in Warsaw, Poland
Fuji XT1 w/Fujinon XF 16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR

 © hannah kozak

Fantastic walking guides in Warsaw, Poland.
Fuji XT1 w/Fujinon XF 16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR

© hannah kozak

Children in Old Town; Warsaw, Poland
Fuji XT1 w/Fujinon 16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR

© hannah kozak

Warsaw, Poland
Fuji XT1 w/Fujinon XF 16-55 mm F 2.8 R LM WR

© hannah kozak

Warsaw, Poland
Fuji XT1 w/Fujinon XF16-55 mm
F2.8 R LM WR

© hannah kozak

Self Portrait en route to Museum of the History of Polish Jews – Warsaw, Poland
Fuji XT1 w/Fujinon XF 16-55 mm F2.8 R LM WR

© hannah kozak

Old Town – Warsaw, Poland
Fuji XT1 w/Fujinon XF 16-55 mm F2.8 R LM WR

© hannah kozak

Warsaw, Poland.
Fuji XT1 w/Fujinon XF 16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR

@ hannah kozak

Self Portrait at my favorite place to stay in Warsaw: Dom Literatury.
Fuji XT 1 w/Fujinon XF 16-55 mm F2.8 R LM WR

© hannah kozak

Old City – Warsaw, Poland
Fuji XT1 w/Fujinon XF 16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR

It has been said that Poland is dead, exhausted, enslaved, but here is the proof of her life and triumph.
Henryk Sienkiewicz

Warsaw in Winter


Why I’m Lighting Yahrzeit Candles on Christmas – My Father’s Hands & Feet

Fine Art Photographer shares intimate moments from death

W. Eugene Smith said photographs can summon enough emotion to be a catalyst to thought. A writer writes about someone’s struggles as an act of compassion and caring.  Giving shape to something painful helps us to process our grief by sharing it. Sharing words and photos decreases the burden we are carrying. By sharing my feelings and photos, perhaps I reach another person who is or has carried the burden of grief. Just as I take refuge in travel, I find healing in sharing. Author Dorothy Allison said if you don’t break out in a sweat of fear of what you write, you have not gone far enough. This one made me sweat.

My father began to leave his physical body after only two nights in the hospital. His last request was a black bean burrito, no guacamole, from Poquito Mas. I brought it to him for lunch, not knowing that it would be his last meal. Watching my father die in a sterile hospital seemed like a privilege compared to how his entire family was killed at Auschwitz and Treblinka by gassing.I felt blessed I could have the opportunity to mourn my father in a way he never could mourn his family in Poland, because he never saw any of their bodies after they were killed.

I was witness to the process of his body shutting down. At any given moment, either one or more of my brothers was in the room or my sister or niece, nephew, and the endless stream of nurses with machines to keep checking him so billing could continue even after he was heading through the astral plane. My sister refused to leave because he asked her not to leave him alone. She slept in the bed next to his. I would go home to sleep and no matter when I returned, she was in the room.   As my sister held his hand, I was pained by the thinness of his skin. I kept caressing the paper-thin skin on his arm, as if my rubbing could keep his arm from bleeding more. I had one-way conversations with my father. I kept telling him it was okay for him to go to G-d. I knew he could hear me.

As I always did in life, I continued to make photos as his death was imminent. The process was exhausting and while some may view the photos as callous, for myself it was more that I wanted one last look at my father, the man who taught me to stand on my own two feet. From a higher perspective than judgment, these photos are about love.  I was attempting, in my humble way, to make sense of his departure from my world and his. By documenting my father’s death, I was reaching out for one last moment of immortality, trying to make sense of his journey back home to G-d.

© hannah kozak

I saw my father reach for someone that was not part of this world. In that moment, with that reach, my father showed me there is more than just this life. Photography is death of a moment.Death is the eidos of the photograph. According to Roland Barthes in Camera Lucida, the book he wrote in 1979 hailed as the “subtle, most original, most sympathetic literary intelligence of the age” a photograph is a return of the dead.Death is the great equalizer.  We turn into energy and disappear. My father gave me a great gift before he left his physical body. I was on his left side, my sister was on his right. He reached out past me, towards the ceiling, the heavens. “Grab his hand, Hannah” my sister said. “He’s reaching for you.” “No I said” immediately and without hesitation. “He’s not reaching for me.”

My oldest brother and my sister were in the room with my father and I at the end. His hands and feet grew swollen as his skin both softened and wrinkled. On Christmas Eve, I watched his inhale become short and labored until there was barely an inhale left and mainly his exhale. Then, on Christmas morning, the final inhale that lasted too long, a labored gurgled exhale, which made my sister jump, and his soul left the space. Silence. The machine helping him breathe was still inhaling and exhaling for him. He was not. “What do we do” my brother asked to anyone who might have an answer. I said “Don’t call the nurses yet. I need a moment alone with him.”

© hannah kozak

© hannah kozak


It was an honor to be with him until the end. I experienced a surreal and grounding experience. Hospice nurse, Maggie Callanan has witnessed more than two thousand deaths and says “dying people have the uncanny ability to choose the moment of death, and it’s not uncommon for them to spare those they love the most or feel protective of by waiting until those people leave the room.”  I’ve heard so many stories of people waiting until their loved ones left the room before they die. Not my father, he really never liked being alone. Leaning into my father, I smelled decay. I gently removed his blue and white socks off his swollen feet and tucked them into my purse, where I found them ten days later, rolled up in a ball.  I feel sad, numb, but also relief that he isn’t suffering any more.
I made some photos of his hands as he was in the hospital, as well as over the years. I loved my father’s hands and feet.
© hannah kozak 24 April 2010

©hannah kozak

25 April 2010

25 April 2010

27 April 2012

© hannah kozak

19 May 2012

27 June 2012

27 June 2012

27 June 2012

27 June 2012

26 June 2012

26 June 2012

25 Sept 2012

25 Sept 2012

I often wondered about his hands. Those strong hands dug potatoes with two friends from the barracks in the hard, dirt ground, in the dark, as he was a prisoner who worked in eight Nazi camps. The next night he decided not to go out  when his friends started to leave. Not only were his friends caught but their punishment for stealing potatoes was death.  He told me about taking his hand and wiping the back of his neck, seeing it filled with crawling vermin from the filthy conditions in the forced labor camps he lived in.

His feet, I wondered about the towns he walked in Poland alone, after a year in the hospital, looking for his family after he was liberated from Dernau on May 8, 1945.  I can’t imagine what it felt like to know there wasn’t one family member or friend on the face of the earth who knew who he was. No one who remembered one of his birthdays, no one to recall a favorite story with, no one to share a “remember when we ditched school” laugh.

My photographs are the voice that continues after my father’s death. In some way, my photos keep him alive. They remind me of the strong wings he had to develop because he had to learn to fly solo. I feel honored my father choose me to walk with him to the end of his road on the earth plane and I found beauty in the midst of my grief. The shroud of death followed my father throughout his life but his strength and tenacity created rebirth and resurrection. There was no closure from the losses of his entire family during the war but his hope kept him moving forward until it was time for him to go back home, one more time. His death, a learning process and experience he left behind, for those who will follow someday.

©hannah kozak

(The opening lines of James Fenton’s A German Requiem)

A German Requiem – James Fenton

It is not what they built.

It is what they knocked down.

It is not the houses. It is the spaces in between the houses.

It is not the streets that exist. It is the streets that no longer exist.

It is not your memories which haunt you.

It is not what you have written down.

It is what you have forgotten, what you must forget.

What you must go on forgetting all your life.

And with any luck oblivion should discover a ritual.

You will find out that you are not alone in the enterprise.

Yesterday the very furniture seemed to reproach you.

Today you take your place in the Widow’s Shuttle.

“There are too many of us and we are all too far apart.” ― Kurt Vonnegut

Fine Art Photographer shares intimate moments from death


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