The Useless Archive
International Centre for Litvak Photography

The Useless Archive is an long-term project to digitally replace the estimated five million Lithuanian Jewish family photographs that were burned or otherwise destroyed during the Nazi occupation of Lithuania between 1941 and 1944 [1] with an equal number of privately owned images that left Lithuania with their emigrating families before the Second World War. Quietly launched with the aid of a short pilot programme in November 2022, the project is currently seeking further funding in order to continue. The latest version of The Useless Archive Fact Sheet can be downloaded here.

[1] As part of Adolf Hitler’s ‘spiritual battle against Jews and other opponents of National Socialism’ that proliferated throughout Europe and North Africa between 1933 and 1945, Nazi Germany’s so-called ‘ownerless property’ law provided both the legal right and the ideological justification for the mass looting of hundreds of millions of cultural artefacts and everyday possessions throughout Germany and the countries that the Third Reich began occupying in 1938. Having no value whatsoever, and therefore categorised as ‘useless’, calculating even a rough estimate of how many millions of Jewish family photographs were lost forever during this period is an impossible task. Although estimating the number of Lithuanian Jewish family photographs that were destroyed between 1941 and 1944 would be an equally fruitless exercise, approximately five million seems to be a reasonable figure. This number is based on the assumption that approximately half of the 100,000 or so Lithuanian Jews who were living in Lithuania in June 1941 owned at least one family photo album, and that each of these albums contained an average of 100 photographs.