Mendel Grossman was born to a Jewish family in
Staszów, Poland. When he was a small child, the family moved to Łódź. He began to draw and paint from an early age. He took photos first as an amateur, then later gained recognition as a professional artist-photographer. In the 1930s, he took photos of the Jewish Theater in Łódź, and got to know many actors, writers, poets, musicians and painters. He also took street photos, recording children playing and laborers at work.
After Nazi Germany invaded his homeland in World War II, Grossman and his family were confined to the Łódź (Litzmannstadt) Ghetto, where he got a job with the Department of Statistics, taking photos for work permits. It was the perfect cover for his true intention: to secretly record for posterity the brutal conditions in the Łódź Ghetto, such as starvation, deportations and public executions. Taking these photos was forbidden but he persevered at the risk of his own life, concealing a camera under his coat. In August 1944, shortly before the final liquidation of the Ghetto, he hid about 10,000 negatives of his photos in tin cans.
When the Gestapo found out about his activities, he was deported to a forced labor camp at Koenigs Wusterhausen, and later shot by the Nazis during a death march, at age 32.
Grossman's sister Fajge found some of his hidden photographs and took them to Israel, but most of these were lost during the War of Independence in 1948. Other photos by Grossman were saved by his friend Nachman (Natek) Zonabend, who concealed them, along with the archives of the Ghetto, at the bottom of a well.
These photographs are now located in the Museum of Holocaust and Resistance at the Ghetto Fighters House in Kibbutz Lohamei Hagetaot, Israel, as well as at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. Some of the photos taken by Mendel Grossman were used in the book With a Camera in the Ghetto (1977).