Our Life Behind Barbed Wire: Photography From Ukrainian Ostarbeiters in Nazi Germany

Event Format
In person
CGIS North (Knafel building), 1737 Cambridge St, Cambridge, MA (Room K262)

This talk will open an exhibit at Harvard's Fisher Family Common gallery dedicated to the photography and correspondence of Ukrainian forced laborers (“Ostarbeiters”) in Nazi Germany. These letters and photographs will be discussed as testimonials of everyday life that formed a portrait of exile and rupture, but also served the Nazis’ propaganda purposes by promoting the idea of Nazi “benevolence” and the laborers’ “wellbeing” in Germany. The materials will be considered as transmitters of news and secret messages, and as attempts to creatively escape totalitarian control. The exhibit will emphasize the historical significance of the firsthand accounts of war powerfully present in such correspondence and photography, and will complement existing scholarship, which typically stands at a distance from the Ostarbeiters’ overall creativity, as if these captives left no textual or visual traces.

Following the lecture, guests are invited to view the exhibit and join in a small reception at the CGIS Knafel cafe.

The exhibit will be open to the public until July 1.


This event and related exhibit are co-sponsored by the Davis Center and the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute. 


The Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University encourages persons with disabilities to participate in its programs and activities. If you anticipate needing any type of accommodation or have questions about the physical access provided, please contact us at 617-495-4037 or daviscenter@fas.harvard.edu in advance of your participation or visit. Requests for Sign Language interpreters and/or CART providers should be made at least two weeks in advance if possible. Please note that the Davis Center will make every effort to secure services but that services are subject to availability.