Jessica Helfand | Exhibitions

Ordinary People

List of Jews about to be deported, all living in or near the Marais in Paris, during the Nazi occupation in France.

Of the more than 300 documents on view at the French Archives in Paris—diaries, letters, files, and records chronicling the French collaboration with the Germans duing the war—none is more chilling than a list of Jews awaiting deportation.

Written in an almost decorative script, it's simply a list of names followed by addresses in what are now fashionable parts of Paris: Rue Charlot, Rue Turbigo, Rue Froissart (which is spelled incorrectly). The list looks innocent. It is nothing of the kind.

The exhibit features ample documentation of the principal players—Bosquet, Pétain, and Laval, along with Hitler's ambassador to Vichy, among others—along with a simply dizzying array of propaganda, yet it is these seemingly ordinary artifacts that are far more disturbing, perhaps because they are so indelibly human. A young woman's identity card is stamped “JUIF” across the top. A page of photographs displaying “semitic” features is sloppily glued to a page in someone's notebook. Messy handwriting, photobooth headshots, casual glimpses into the visual evidence of normal, everyday life—except that none of this was ordinary. Or ever will be.

Jobs | May 20