The boy in this photograph has been identified as David Eckstein, a Holocaust survivor currently living in a commune in the American Southwest. Born in 1930 in the small town of Brod, Eckstein was seven years old when Vishniac took several photographs of him, his classmates, and his teacher just before the onslaught of World War II. Vishniac later recalled, “I watched this little boy for almost an hour, and in this moment I saw the whole sadness of the world.” This portrait was later selected as the cover of Vishniac’s first publication, Polish Jews: A Pictorial Record (1947), and reprinted on the cover of I. B. Singer’s National Book Award–winning collection of stories, A Day of Pleasure: Stories of a Boy Growing Up in Warsaw (1969).
Eckstein survived five concentration camps, including Bergen-Belsen in Germany and Auschwitz II–Birkenau in Poland, and was liberated by the Soviet armed forces. His entire family, with the exception of one sibling, was murdered in the Holocaust. He came to America in the early 1950s, via Israel, and eventually settled in Woodstock, New York, where he became a Buddhist. In 1997, Eckstein recorded his memories of life before, during, and after the war for the University of Southern California (USC) Shoah Foundation. An excerpt of the interview, focusing on his childhood at the time Vishniac made this iconic portrait, is shown here. The complete interview is available through the USC Shoah Foundation.
David Eckstein Shoah Testimony,
© USC Shoah Foundation Institute
Digitized from betacam tapes
Running time: 20:17