John Roach

Waldsee 1944
The Hebrew Union Museum
New York, NY

exhibition description:
An exhibition of hundreds of postcards created in response to the "Waldsee postcards"

" In the summer of 1944, many Jewish families in newly Nazi-occupied Budapest received postcards from their deported loved ones. "I am doing fine," the postcards read. "I am working." "I have arrived safely. I have got work in my occupation." "We are doing fine. Follow us here!" Each cheery card was postmarked Waldsee.

In fact, the cards were mailed from Auschwitz. They were dictated by SS officers to prisoners, often just before they entered gas chambers. Waldsee did not exist as portrayed, although if families consulted a map, they would find small towns with that name in Austria and Switzerland" - The New York Sun

My Postcard
I responded to the defamation of language by pounding jibberish into a lead sheet.


  • photos
  • statement
  • press

It is amazing that the one tool that so many of us depend on to communicate is, in fact, so slippery and unreliable.

Being forced to write the reassuring words seen in the Waldsee postcards creates a horrible breakdown of language. It leaves language in an abused state and renders it untrustworthy. Communication fails and the words become instead a duplicitous shell that hides unspoken truths. I wanted to respond to this deception on a number of levels: aesthetically materially and thematically... I wanted this card to have a feeling of permanence, of something solid and strong, but to be in reality, the opposite. The lead with which this card is made may be easily crumpled into a ball, It can be torn into bits, and it can be heated and turned into liquid. The letters that are imprinted in its surface can be obscured with little effort. In fact these letters make no sense at all, if by chance there are combinations that amount to words and meaning it is strictly an accident. From a distance the card appears to be decorative, simply an aesthetic play of lights and darks as the reflections play across the textured surface. It is only on closer inspection that the letters snap into focus. The card appears to be many things, but in the end it is only a heavy toxic sheet.

The Sun
Postcards from the Edge