La Organización

Buenos Aires 2016

4 channel video installation, 40min
spanish/yiddish with english subtitles

The video installation addresses the disappearance of Jewish women and girls who were abducted and transported to Argentina during the period 1850–1930 as victims of human trafficking. It seeks to elucidate their history.The location shown in the video installation is in an overgrown Jewish cemetery in Buenos Aires, in which some of these women and girls are buried. The action and performance on which the video installation is based comprises two acts.

In Buenos Aires there is a Jewish cemetery in which prostitutes and their pimps lie buried. In many of the graves lie the remains of Eastern European Jewish women who were trafficked to Argentina in the period 1870–1930 by the Jewish pimp ring Zwi Migdal. A burial in the Jewish tradition was important to members of the pimp ring. However, the Jewish community’s chevra kadisha (those who see to it that the bodies of Jews are properly prepared for burial) refused to cooperate with Zvi Migdal, so the pimps had to establish a cemetery of their own. Jewish communities in Europe, North America and Latin America were aware of Jews’ role in the systematic trafficking of women and girls and created an international network, in order both to combat the crime and to offer Jewish “fallen women” social assistance and exit opportunities.

Raquel Liberman (1900–1935) numbers among the women buried in this cemetery in Buenos Aires. Raquel Liberman emigrated with her two young children from Warsaw to Argentina in 1922. She was following in her husband’s footsteps yet he died of tuberculosis shortly afterwards. The dire economic situation and her impoverished circumstances drove her into prostitution. After secretly putting money aside for a while, she was able to open an antique shop and begin a new life. However, the ring did not appreciate a prostitute trying to escape its influence and gain independence. Raquel was therefore recaptured and forced back into prostitution.Only after the military coup of 1930 in Argentina was Raquel Liberman able to avenge her suffering. She informed the authorities of Zwi Migdal’s activities and the pimp ring was smashed. No less than 108 individuals faced charges. Raquel Liberman’s story has meanwhile been researched but she is still by no means a household name and has never yet been given the credit that is her due. She was a woman of incredible courage and resolve. She escaped the prostitution milieu, drew public attention to her fate, pressed charges in court against the pimp ring and thus saved the lives of several other women trapped in forced prostitution.

The trafficking of women and men is unfortunately not only still a major global problem but also currently on the rise; and the structure of human trafficking organizations has changed little over the last century. Until 2014 it was uncertain whether the grave of Raquel Liberman really lies in this cemetery. However, during my research trip I was able to consult the cemetery’s register of burials and find proof of its existence. For further informations about the project: email me please