Dorothy Bohm in Israel

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Dorothy Bohm in Israel
Dorothy Bohm, 'Jerusalem, Israel', 1970
Dorothy Bohm in Israel

Born Dorothea Israelit on 22 June 1924 in Königsberg, East Prussia, into a prosperous Jewish Lithuanian family, Bohm had a turbulent childhood. One of her earliest memories is of a Hitler Youth parade outside her family home. The family moved to Memel, Lithuania, a town on the Baltic Sea, to avoid the growing threat of Nazism.

Warned that the Nazis would march on Memel the following day, the Israelits left the town and moved to Šiauliai, the second largest city in Lithuania but Bohm was then sent to join her older brother in England. As her train was about to depart for England, her father gave her his Leica camera as a leaving gift. Bohm would loose contact with her parents for twenty years. At the German border a guard noticed that she was carrying a photo album with pictures of a youth group wearing the Star of David but let her continue on her journey. She arrived in England in June 1939, three months before the outbreak of war.

She first visited Israel in 1948 where she photographed prolifically. Later she would play a key role in instigating a photography department in the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, and a major retrospective of her work would be held there in 1986.

In the late 1950s, the Red Cross helped Bohm to contact her parents who were living in Riga, Latvia. Bohm discovered that they had been deported by the Russians during the war to separate labour camps in Siberia. In 1960 Bohm finally received a visa to allow her to travel to visit her parents. This made her one of the earliest Western photographers to photograph Moscow and Leningrad. In 1963 her parents moved to England.

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