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July 25: Julia Pirotte, Photographer of the French Resistance

July 24, 2015

220px-Julia_pirotteWarsaw-born photojournalist Julia Pirotte (Gina Diament), who documented the French Resistance in Marseille during the anti-Nazi struggle and photographed the aftermath of the 1946 Kielce pogrom in Poland, died at 92 on this date in 2000. Pirotte was a self-educated woman and activist who was imprisoned in Poland for four years, 1925-29. In 1934, faced with further imprisonment, she fled Poland and gained Belgian citizenship after marrying labor activist Jean Pirotte. After the Nazi occupation of Belgium, the couple was deported to France, where Pirotte participated with the French Resistance as a photographer for Dimanche Illustré and also helped to smuggle weapons, false identity documents, and illegal publications throughout Vichy France. She belonged to the Francs-Tireurs et Partisans, which included many Jewish emigrés, and she photographed the rural guerrilla groups known as the Maquis during the summer of 1944 and the liberation of Marseille. Her sister, Mindla Maria Diament (1911-1944) also a member of the Resistance, was tortured and executed by the Vichy regime, while their brother died in a Soviet gulag. Returning to Poland after the war, Pirotte photographed the suffering caused by the Kielce pogrom, and attended the World Congress of Intellectuals for Peace in 1948, where she took portraits of Pablo Picasso and other leading figures. In 1984, New York’s International Center of Photography mounted an exhibition of her work.

“Pirotte’s contribution to war photography is invaluable in its portrayal of civilians living under enemy occupation and their struggle for freedom. Her courage and dedication to the plight of the persecuted has insured that the bravery of so many men, women, and children has not been forgotten.” —ICP