The “Scholarly” Department
(“Wissenschaftliche” Abteilung)
The “Scholarly Department” (“Wissenschaftliche Abteilung”), headed by Rabbi Emanuel Herszberg [variants: Hirszberg or Hirschberg] employed Lejzerowicz and at least two other artists, Hersz Tsvi Szylis and Icyk Majer (Vincent) Brauner, as well as graphic designers and craftspersons trained in the arts. The department was established as an Arbeitsressort in May 1942 by the specific order of Hans Biebow, head of the German Ghetto Administration without consultation with Chairman Rumkowski. It was shut down towards the end of June 1943, although work to complete some projects may have continued for a few more months. The department’s main function was to work with the “Litzmannstadt” branch of the Nazis’ “Institute for Research on the Jewish Question,” [Institut zur Erforschung der Judenfrage] a “scholarly” institution based in Frankfurt/Main that was established to legitimize and normalize anti-Semitic policies and thought through research. Litzmannstadt was a good location for gathering information about Jewish customs in Eastern Europe.

The department’s chief activity was to prepare a future traveling exhibition about Jewish life and customs in Eastern Europe. This can be understood as part of the same current of activities that led to the work of the Jewish Museum in Prague, which, in a postwar world dominated by the Third Reich, was supposed to hold collections relating to an extinct culture. The planned exhibition would be used for propaganda purposes, in the spirit of the traveling exhibition on “The Eternal Jew” [
Der ewige Jude], on view as of November 1937 in Munich and Vienna; a similar exhibition was brought to Paris after the fall of France.

It is well known that the Nazis collected Jewish-related material (books, sacred objects) wherever they went as they conquered large parts of Europe. They selected and gathered material in a falsely objective manner for propagandistic purposes, thereby misusing and debasing the word “
wissenschaftlich,” meaning scholarly or scientific. In the Warsaw ghetto, a film team recorded scenes of life in the ghetto in a pseudo-documentary manner, forcing ghetto inmates to perform again and again to produce manipulated scenes that would reveal Jewish life-styles as repulsive and disgusting. This process is shown in the 2010 Israeli-German documentary “A Film Unfinished,” directed by Yael Hersonski.

We know from Oskar Rosenfeld’s diaries, published and unpublished, that Lejzerowicz worked on several paintings for this department:

“Yom Kippur during Korim,” referring to the action of falling to one’s knees during prayers in the Musaf service of Yom Kippur;
Candle-lighting on Friday evening;
Ghetto atmosphere: Sewage transport, timber barriers, latrines, Jewish policeman, silhouettes of the city;
Bethoilem,” the cemetery.

Some works by Lejzerowicz now preserved at the Yad Vashem Art Museum and at the Ghetto Fighters’ House were likely created for the “scholarly department.” Note in particular the two drawings of sewage transport, the image of women at work in the ghetto, and the picture of the bridge over the “Aryan” street.
CLICK HERE to see these works in the Ghetto-era work portion of this website. It is unknown what happened to the other works described by Rosenfeld.

We know from Lejzerowicz’s sketches ands notes at the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw that he was involved in the planning and execution of an exhibition that was shown in the ghetto only. It is unlikely that the exhibition was ever on public display in Litzmannstadt itself because the department was disbanded in June 1943, after the Reich’s propaganda ministry turned down the idea of an exhibition, much to the German ghetto administration’s disappointment.

What has remained of the exhibition (in addition to the works by Lejzerowicz and Hersch Tsvi Szylis) are photographs of one of the table displays of a scene from eastern European Jewish life, a Chasidic Wedding in Poland, constructed of many three-dimensional doll or puppet-like figures.

Click below for:
The “Scholarly Department” in the Chronicle of the Łódź Ghetto
ANALYSIS by Oskar Rosenfeld of the “Scholarly Department”
Comments by Hanno Loewy about the “Scholarly Department”
MORE about Emanuel Herszberg
MORE about the “Institute for Research on the Jewish Question,” and its activities in Litzmannstadt
IMAGES from the exhibition and related material.