In a world fraught with injustice, the words of eighteenth-century Irish political philosopher Edmund Burke are a clarion call: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
This message is at the center of the work of photographer, humanitarian, and humanitarian Judy Glickman Lauder, who travels the country to speak about the power of courage in the darkest of times. Speaking across generations to people from all walks of life, Mrs. Lauder draws from the lessons of the past to inspire, encourage, and empower people to stand up against the systems of oppression.
“I’m always trying to wake people up to what is going on, what has gone on, what could go on and get out there and try to make a difference,’ Mrs. Lauder tells The Luupe. With the Lauder’s 2018 publication of Beyond the Shadows: The Holocaust and the Danish Exception (Aperture), the photographer brings together photographs made over a period of 30 years documenting the depths of human depravity as well as the heights of heroism by those called to serve.
In 1988, Mrs. Lauder made her first visit to Auschwitz and Birkenau during a two-day visit as part of a trip to Israel. “I wasn’t even sure I wanted to go. It was like, Would I ever sleep again at night?” Mrs. Lauder says. “I thought it would be so emotional — and it was. But it turned me all around. It became a calling. I went back again and again.”
She brought two cameras, one loaded with Tri-X and the other with infrared film that captures light invisible to the naked eye, to create a series of haunting images of the railroad tracks, concentration camps, weapons of torture and death, as well as the remains of personal effects, recording a powerful, palpable sense of both presence and absence.
“I am not a survivor or a child of a survivor, however, all my family is from Poland, the Ukraine, and Lithuania, of which 90% of those Jews were all taken and sent to camps. I felt very attached and kept going back,” Mrs. Lauder says.
In the early 1990s, Mrs. Lauder received an invitation from Judith S. Goldstein, founder of Humanity in Acton, to travel to Denmark and create photographs for an exhibition that would commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the rescue of Jews in Denmark. Mrs. Lauder met, interviewed, and made portraits of Danish Resistance leaders, rescuers, and survivors who, under occupation and tremendous risk, defied the Third Reich to transport the country’s Jews to safety in Sweden.
“[The Danes] are ordinary people from every walk of life who recognized [what was happening] and had the moral courage to follow their conscience and do what was right,” Mrs. Lauder says. “I was most struck by their humility. They asked, ‘Why are you photographing me? Of course, I did what I did. Everybody would do that.’ But hardly anybody did.”
Combining these two bodies of work in a single book, Mrs. Lauder offers a moving reminder that the courage of everyday people has the power to save lives. As a conduit between past and present, her photographs transcend the specifics of time and place, guiding viewers to start where we are and do what we can to continue the fight in every corner of the globe against authoritarian regimes, war, poverty, mass migration, environmental disaster, and open bigotry.
“Even though my subject matter and my journey is a very Jewish one, it deals with all injustice,” Mrs. Lauder says. “The book is a compilation of the depths and heights that mankind can go. It didn’t end with World War II. There still are all kinds of genocide and hate. We can make a difference.”
In late January, Mrs. Lauder joined tens of thousands of people the Solidarity Against Anti-Semitism across the Brooklyn Bridge, after a spate of fourteen incidents of anti-Semitism occurred over a two-week period in New York alone. “There is so much injustice all over the place. Everyone has to open their eyes to it and do something. I think people are. I’m very hopeful for the future and I think it’s going to rest on the next generation. I feel good about what’s going on there,” Mrs. Lauder says.
“I speak to people all over the United States: colleges, high schools, elementary schools down to about fifth-grade people’s homes, museums, all kinds of cultural institutions. Photography is a great medium for humanity; it really tells the story. I think people relate to my images, personal journey, and feelings. This message seems to resound. People are realizing that this is not just history, this is happening today. We all have to get out there to save mankind.”
Judy Glickman Lauder will be in conversation with Chris Boot, executive director of Aperture, at the Society of the Four Arts in Palm Beach, FL, on March 4, 2020.