As a complement to Emily Jacir’s work ex libris in the Zwehrenturm of the Fridericianum, Israeli researcher Gish Amit gives a lecture on the traumatic history of many books in the Jewish National Library.
A series of photographs from the Jewish National Library, taken in 1949 by the Israeli photographer David Haris, document the point at which historical traumas crossed paths: many of the books in the photographs had belonged to European Jews murdered in the Holocaust; others were collected from the homes of Palestinians during 1948. These books, documented in Haris’ photos prior to their cataloguing, in the midst of being sorted, seem to watch us from the depths of the past, on the threshold of a yet-undecided future. They turn back time to the period immediately after the catastrophe, testifying to the fact that something inerasable has occurred while something else, equally important and essential, has yet to happen. What pact is being made in this moment between us, the observers, and the subjects of Haris’ photographs? What moral duty do they bequeath to us? Might they make it possible for us to reflect on other possible paths that history could have taken, and perhaps still can?