Images: 
1897
1897

Roman Vishniac (Wischniak) is born to a prosperous Russian-Jewish family in Pavlovsk, near Saint Petersburg, and is raised in Moscow.

1904

On his seventh birthday, Vishniac receives his first camera and microscope. 

Between 1904 and 1914 Vishniac studies biology and zoology, and experiments with camera lenses and magnification, documenting his results on film.

1917

The Bolsheviks seize power in the Russian Revolution.

Political History
1917

Between 1917-19, Vishniac’s family emigrates from Russia to Germany. He remains in Moscow to pursue graduate studies in biology and zoology at Shanyavsky Institute and becomes an avid amateur photographer.

1920

Vishniac and Luta Bagg, a Latvian Jew, are married at a border town on the way from Moscow to Riga. They immigrate to Weimar Berlin.

1920

1920s
Vishniac is an active member of several Berlin camera clubs. He builds a fully equipped photo-processing lab in his Berlin apartment in the Wilmersdorf district, a neighborhood heavily populated by affluent Russian Jews. He continues to pursue scientific research and microscopy while becoming an accomplished street photographer. 

1922

Luta and Roman Vishniac's first child, Wolf, is born in a Berlin clinic. 

1926

Luta and Roman's second child, Mara, is born in the same Berlin clinic as her brother Wolf. 

1933

Adolf Hitler is appointed Chancellor of Germany. The Dachau Concentration Camp is opened.

Political History
1934

1934-38: Vishniac takes photographs of German-Jewish relief and community organizations operating under the Nazi regime in Berlin.

1935

The Nuremberg Laws are instituted in Germany and widespread antisemitic restrictions are imposed upon German Jews. Jewish businesses are boycotted in Germany, inspiring similar antisemitic actions throughout Poland.

Jewish History
1935

Ca. 1935-38, Vishniac is commissioned by the European headquarters of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (AJDC) in Paris, the world’s largest Jewish relief organization, to photograph impoverished Jewish communities throughout Eastern Europe.

Jewish History
1935

1935-42
American photographers Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, Ben Shahn, and others are hired by Roy Stryker, director of the Farm Security Administration’s Information Division, to document the plight of poor sharecroppers in the Depression-era South.

Photo History
1938

Germany annexes Austria.

Political History
1938

Vishniac is commissioned by the AJDC to photograph thousands of Jewish refugees expelled from Germany in the Polish border town of Zbaszyn.

Jewish History
1938

In November, coordinated attacks on Jewish businesses, homes, and synagogues throughout Germany take place (Kristallnacht). Following this incident, approximately 30,000 Jews are arrested and sent to concentration camps.

Vishniac is in Berlin during Kristallnacht but is warned by a friend in the police force to avoid his apartment and to go into hiding.

1938
1938

Vishniac’s photographs of Jewish communities in Eastern Europe are exhibited in the AJDC offices in New York. This is the first time that his work is exhibited in the U.S.

Photo History
1938

Vishniac makes two silent films of Jewish life in Carpathian Ruthenia and Galicia for the AJDC. The films are lost during the war, but outtakes later resurface.

1939

Germany and the Soviet Union sign the Molotov-Ribbentrop mutual nonaggression pact. Germany invades Poland on September 1; two days later, Britain and France declare war against Germany and World War II begins. The first Nazi ghetto is established in Poland.

Political History
1939

The AJDC commissions Vishniac to photograph the Werkdorp Wieringen, an agrarian training camp in the Netherlands where young German-Jewish refugees learn agricultural and vocational skills in preparation for emigration to Palestine.

Jewish History
1939

Vishniac travels from the Netherlands via England to France as a freelance photographer. Luta Vishniac attempts to secure immigration visas and affidavits for her family. Mara Vishniac is sent to safety in Sweden, where she is later joined by her brother Wolf.

1939

Vishniac travels from Paris to Nice, where he makes a promotional film for the A JDC documenting an ORT (Jewish Society for Trades and Agricultural Labor) vocational training school in Marseille. This is his last AJDC assignment until he returns to Europe in 1947.

1940

The Vichy regime is established in France, July 1940.

Political History
1940

In Paris, Vishniac entrusts his negatives to friend Walter Bierer, who promises to transport them to the U.S. 

1940

Vishniac is arrested and imprisoned for three months in the Camp du Ruchard internment camp in Clichy, France. Following his release, he reunites with Luta, Wolf, and Mara in Lisbon.

1940

Vishniac and family embark from Lisbon to NY on S.S. Siboney. They depart in December 1940.

1941

The Vishniac family arrives in New York on New Year’s Day 1941. 

1941

Germany invades the Soviet Union. Japan attacks the United States naval fleet at Pearl Harbor. Germany declares war on the U.S. Germany begins mass deportations of Jews to Poland.

Political History
1941

Vishniac’s parents begin living in hiding in the South of France. Vishniac's mother, Manya Wischniak, dies, July 30, 1941.

1941

Vishniac opens a portrait studio in his family’s Upper West Side apartment and works to establish himself as a science photographer. Over the next decade, he undertakes several commissions for Jewish relief, social service, and community organizations in the U.S.

1942

The Wannsee Conference is held to implement and coordinate the Final Solution, a plan to annihilate the Jewish people. Germany implements a policy of total destruction of European Jewry.

Jewish History
1942

Walter Bierer brings Vishniac’s negatives from France via Cuba to the U.S., where they are confiscated by Customs. After a lengthy struggle, the negatives are released to Vishniac, and he immediately begins to exhibit and publish them.

1942

A selection of Vishniac's Eastern European photographs is exhibited in Life Everywhere, a show at New School for Social Research on view from October 19-November 1. Through this exhibition and others like it, Vishniac sought to raise awareness of the plight of European Jewry as the war raged. 

1943

An exhibition of Vishniac’s photographs, Children of Want and Fear: Europe Before the War, is held at the Teachers’ College Library, Columbia University from February 1-13, 1943

Photo History
1944

In January 1944, a major exhibition of Vishniac’s photographs, Pictures of Jewish Life in Prewar Poland, is held at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in New York.

1945

In January 1945 YIVO mounts a second large-scale Vishniac exhibition, Jewish Life in the Carpathians.

1945

Germany surrenders on May 7, 1945. The Auschwitz concentration camp is liberated by Soviet troops. Japan surrenders in September and World War II ends.

Political History
1946

Vishniac becomes an American citizen. Vishniac and Luta divorce.

1947

Vishniac returns to Europe on assignment for the AJDC, the United Jewish Appeal (UJA), and The Forward  to document Jewish Displaced Persons’ Camps. While there, he photographs his demolished former hometown, Berlin.

1947

Vishniac’s first monograph, Polish Jews: A Pictorial Record, is published in New York.

1947

Vishniac reconnects with Edith Ernst, whom he marries in Berlin. They return to New York together, settling on the Upper West Side.

1948

The State of Israel is established

Political History
1951

Life Magazine article "New Ways to See Living Things" is published describing Vishniac's discovery of "colorization." It includes a spread of Vishniac's microscopic photographs.

1955

Vishniac is included in Edward Steichen’s seminal exhibition and catalogue, The Family of Man, at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, on view January 24-May 8, 1955.

1955

Eugene Kinkead's two issue profile of Vishniac is published by the New Yorker, July, 1955. 

Link to article

1965

Vishniac begins an enduring friendship with Cornell Capa, who later establishes the International Center of Photography (ICP).

1968

Broadcast premier of an NBC special on Vishniac's work, "The Big Little World of Roman Vishniac" in May.

1969

Vishniac's photographs are used to illustrate Isaac Bashevis Singer's A Day of Pleasure: Stories of a Boy Growing Up in Warsaw, winner of the 1970 National Book Award for Children's Books.

1971

Cornell Capa’s International Fund for Concerned Photography presents the exhibition Concerns of Roman Vishniac at the Jewish Museum in New York.

Photo History
1971

Vishniac’s book of color photomicroscopy, Building Blocks of Life: Proteins, Vitamins and Hormones, is published.

1973

Wolf Vishniac, son of Roman Vishniac and noted microbiologist and professor, dies on a research expedition in Antarctica.

1974

ICP publishes a monograph on Vishniac, published by Grossman Publishers in New York. The text is a reprint of Eugene Kinkead’s two-part New Yorker profile from 1955.

1983

A large selection of Vishniac’s photographs documenting Jewish life in Eastern Europe is published to international acclaim in A Vanished World, which wins the National Jewish Book Award.

A Vanished World Roman Vishniac; with forward by Elie Wiesel
New York : Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1983, 179 pages

An exhibition by the same name, organized by ICP, tours the U.S. and internationally through 1988.

Photo History
1990

Vishniac dies at the age of ninety-two.

Photo History
1991

Mara Vishniac Kohn becomes the executor of Vishniac's estate. Howard Greenberg Gallery begins its twenty-year representation of Vishniac's photographic work.

1993

To Give Them Light: The Legacy of Roman Vishniac, edited by Marion Wiesel, is published by Simon & Schuster in NY.

1999

Vishniac’s daughter, Mara Vishniac Kohn, coedits the publication Roman Vishniac: Children of a Vanished World featuring Vishniac’s 1930s photographs of children in Eastern Europe. A related exhibition of Vishniac’s photographs of children tours the U.S.

2005

Roman Vishniac’s Berlin opens at the Jewish Museum, Berlin, coinciding with the publication of an exhibition catalogue.

2007

The Roman Vishniac Archive is established at ICP in partnership with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Photo History
2012

Digitization was completed on Vishniac's body of negatives. These will ultimately be available to the public for research and scholarship.