The Jewish Genealogy Association 

The Mexican Suitcase

Exhibition presented by Catherine Tomat,

Translation into English by David Presburger-Hauser

The Museum of Judaism Art and History in Paris presents "The Mexican Suitcase" from 27 February to 30 June 2013.

    This case (in fact, three roll films), which contained 4,500 photo negatives taken during the Spanish Civil War between 1936 and 1939 by Robert Capa, Gerda Taro and Chim, was found in Mexico, hence its name, and returned in 2007 to the International Center of Photography, founded by Cornell Capa, Robert's brother.

    The (exceptional) documents were intact and mostly unpublished.

    Boards of photos have already been presented in New York, Arles, Barcelona and today it is the MAHJ which shows the history of the three Jewish photographers who invested in the storytelling of the Spanish Civil War.

    Robert Capa (1913-1954) was a Hungarian Jew born Endre Ernõ Friedmann in Budapest to a middle class family, his parents owning a couture studio. As a student, he campaigned for the Left opposing the policy of Regent Miklós Horthy. He was imprisoned and then released on condition of exile. He moved to Berlin in 1931 thinking of ??becoming a journalist and found himself a job at a photo lab while studiying Political Science. Hitler ‘s rise to power and the establishment of anti Jewishlegislation forced him to leave Germany to settle in Paris.

    In 1934 he became acquainted with Gerta Pohorylle (1910-1937) a Jewish girl born in Stuttgart in a modest family of merchants from Galicia, who had fled Hitler's policies. In Paris, she began a career in photography.

They meet David Szymin (1911-1956), a Jewish press photographer born in Warsaw, the son of a major publisher in Hebrew and Yiddish.

All three left in August 1936 for Spain to cover the Civil War for magazines like Vu, Regards, Ce Soir, Life. They signed their photos as Robert Capa (Endre Friedmann), Gerda Taro (Gerta Pohorylle) and Chim (David Szymin).

During three years, they lived in the heart of this disastrous war between the Republicans and Francisco Franco’s Nationalists. Robert Capa photographed the Republican soldiers, Gerda Taro, photographed the corpses in the morgue of Valencia and Chim favored shooting civilians to show the desolation of a people dying under the dictatorship of Franco. The three of them have laid the foundation for war photography: battle scenes, portraits of soldiers, of wounded and dead people.

At the time of the conflict, technological advances enabled cameras such as Leica, portable and handy, using flexible films, to get snapshots. The image tells as much as the text.

Gerda Taro was killed at the age of 26 at the Battle of Brunete on July 26, 1937, near Madrid, crushed by a republican tank. On 1 August, she was buried in the Paris cemetery of Père-Lachaise.

In 1939, Robert Capa left France leaving the negativse suitcase in his Paris studio rue Froidevaux run by his friend Csiki Weisz. He moved to New York and became an US citizen. Chim also went into exile in the USA during WWII and adopted the name David Seymour. In 1940, their friend Csiki Weisz fled Paris from the Nazis carrying the negatives and after a long journey found refuge in Mexico.

In 1944, Capa was the only one to cover the landing of Allied troops on the beaches of Normandy. After the Liberation, Capa and Chim along with Cartier-Bresson and Rodger Vandivert, founded the Magnum Photos cooperative that was to host the biggest names in the world of photojournalism.

But the war continued and Capa went to Indochina where his life ended on 25 May 1954 when he stepped on a landmine while photographing a group of French soldiers. France awarded him the Croix de Guerre posthumously. He was buried in a Quaker cemetery near New York City close to his friend Chim who lost his life in 1956 while covering the Suez crisis.

The MAHJ exposes "The Mexican Suitcase" until end of June. Several conferences, meetings and movies are presented around the exhibition.