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Liberated Prisoners at Buchenwald, Germany

Margaret Bourke-White (American, 1904-1971)

Liberated Prisoners at Buchenwald, Germany, 1945

  • Gelatin silver print
  • 10 5/8 x 10 5/8 in. (26.9 x 26.9 cm)
  • The Jewish Museum, New York
  • Purchase: Lillian Gordon Bequest, 2000-77
  • © Estate of Margaret Bourke-White/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

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Liberated Prisoners at Buchenwald, Germany

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Liberated Prisoners at Buchenwald, Germany

Born in 1904 in New York City and raised in Bound Brook, New Jersey, Margaret Bourke-White grew up to become a pioneer in the field of photojournalism. Her father was an amateur photographer, and she began to pursue photography seriously as a college student. By 1928, Bourke-White's photographs were appearing in newspapers and magazines across the country. In 1929, magazine publisher Henry Luce invited her to take photographs for Fortune magazine, and in 1936, she became one of the first staff photographers for Luce's new publication Life magazine. Her picture New Deal, Montana: Fort Peck Dam appeared on the cover of the first issue of the magazine on November 23, 1936.

Bourke-White was strongly committed to social causes, and she used her photographs to address the issues that were important to her. In 1937, her photographs of rural poverty in the American South were published in the book You Have Seen Their Faces, a collaboration between Bourke-White and her husband, the novelist Erskine Caldwell. She traveled throughout Europe during World War II as a war correspondent and was with General Patton's forces when the troops liberated the Buchenwald concentration camp in 1945. The following year, Bourke-White published a book of war photographs called Dear Fatherland, Rest Quietly, which helped her come to terms with the horrors she had witnessed during World War II.

Bourke-White was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 1952, and she became increasingly infirm over the years. She died in 1971.