Photos from Auschwitz

Because it’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, I’ll finally put up some pictures I took when I visited Auschwitz/Birkenau in September of 2013. Most of these will speak for themselves; I’ll add some short captions. I’ve posted a few of these before.

Arrival:

These railroad cars held over 100 people each (this is one actually used for transporting prisoners):

A wheel of the train:

One man’s registration:

Prisoners photographed on the day they entered the camps. Note that they didn’t live long after they entered. Their faces haunt me.

A uniform. Jewish star and orange triangle means Jewish political prisoner:

A day’s rations, guaranteed to produce famine and diarrhea:

Items left behind by inmates thinking they’d retrieve them. The inmates were gassed and these things confiscated. The only thing I didn’t photograph, because it’s prohibited, was a huge room full of hair shaved from women’s heads:

The saddest relics:

Where kangaroo courts tried some of the prisoners (hearings were a few minutes).

The “death wall” where those convicted were shot.


The women’s barracks at Birkenau. Each section of the bunk held six people. Some slept on the cement. These are the real barracks, not a reconstruction.

The women’s toilets:

Communal sinks:

Zyklon-B, hydrogen cyanide plus an adsorbent. “Giftgas” means “poison gas”. This was used to exterminate prisoners.

Reconstruction of a gas chamber:

The ovens:

The real gas chambers (destroyed by the Nazis):

A mass grave, eerily prowled by a black cat:

About 1.1 million people died at Auschwitz. 960,000 of these were Jews. The breakdown:

  • Jews (1,095,000 deported to Auschwitz, 960,000 died)
  • Non-Jewish Poles (140,000- 150,000 deported, 74,000 died)
  • Roma (Gypsies) (23,000 deported, 21,000 died)
  • Soviet prisoners of war (15,000 deported and died)
  • Other nationalities (25,000 deported, 10,000- 15,000 died)

If you want to read more, you can find an informative digest here.

Auschwitz was liberated by the Red Army on this day 74 years ago. Here’s some footage of the liberation.

65 Comments

  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted January 27, 2019 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    sub

  2. Frank Bath
    Posted January 27, 2019 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    Shocking. It must take a brave person to look around the place. The BBC showed the critically acclaimed ‘Son of Saul’ last night. That was more than enough for me.

    • Blue
      Posted January 27, 2019 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

      This is head – bangingly heinous these pictures.

      In my view of some several decades’ time of
      film – viewing ( and including No Country
      for Old Men and Schindler’s List ), Son of Saul, without competition, is .the. most
      violent film that I ‘ve ever, e v e r viewed.

      And I would .not. Again. Because I cannot ‘handle’ it. .That. much violence.

      IF, aforehand, I ‘ad known that fact.

      Blue

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted January 27, 2019 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

        Another sad and violent (though mostly terror inducing) movie is Pan’S Labyrinth. It takes place in Spain during the Spanish Civil War.

  3. Posted January 27, 2019 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    😦

  4. rustybrown
    Posted January 27, 2019 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    My God, those pictures are absolutely harrowing. Those poor people.

  5. Mark R.
    Posted January 27, 2019 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    I’ve also seen these horrors first hand at Dachau. I teared up for the nth time this morning.

    • Stephen Mynett
      Posted January 27, 2019 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

      Agreed Mark, those images will never go away but I am glad of that in some ways as it is the lack of knowledge that allows the deniers to spread their cynical filth. I would recommend anyone visits a KZ if they get the chance, it is a horrific experience, then not all knowledge is pleasant but can be put to good use. As many others have said, we must keep these memories alive in the hope they can help stop other atrocities.

      I do not think I would strong enough to visit Auschwitz. Dachau was harrowing and it was the second KZ I had seen. A very close friend’s daughter was reading for a Masters in European History and she wanted to see a KZ, as I was in Germany a lot at that time I agreed to go with her as she did not fancy going alone. It was a quite long bus and train journey back to München where we were both staying and I do not think either of us spoke for the duration.

      Years before I had been to Buchenwald and that was equally horrific. The gate there is different to other camps and did have Arbeit macht frei above it but the incredibly sinister phrase: Jedem das Seine (to each his own).

      • Mark R.
        Posted January 27, 2019 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

        Thanks for this comment Stephen.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted January 29, 2019 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

      The thing that affected me most at Dachau (a couple of days before the 1999-08-11 solar eclipse ; the poplar avenue framed it nicely) were the slightly different designs of gas chamber off to the side (NW) of the main camp. Someone tried a design, found it wanting in some respect, modified the design, compared the two, then scaled up. A thoroughly rational piece of design by someone who knew what they were doing. A very different design to the Auschwitz ones, I guess the Dachau design didn’t have the necessary throughput.

  6. Glenda Palmer
    Posted January 27, 2019 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    The horror. Can’t believe what humans will do to one and other. It must have been particularly difficult for you to go through the place because of you background. Are we getting any better? Sigh.

    • Historian
      Posted January 27, 2019 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

      “The horror. Can’t believe what humans will do to one and other.”

      You’ve summed it up perfectly. Yet, there are the deniers. What kind of humans are they?

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted January 29, 2019 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

        What kind of humans are they?

        Human ones. That’s what some people find upsetting. All of them had parents, and I’d be fairly surprised if many of them didn’t also have children. Some might even be kind to cats.

  7. JezGrove
    Posted January 27, 2019 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    Shockingly, the BBC reported a survey today claiming that 5% of British adults don’t believe in the holocaust at all and that 1 in 12 think it has been exaggerated. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-47015184

  8. Randall Schenck
    Posted January 27, 2019 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    The thing that always comes to me is knowing how, before June of 1944, we bombed German day and night for a long time. All the while this was going on and we knew this too. It took too long to get there and we did not start early enough. It is very frustrating.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted January 27, 2019 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

      Think of IBM employees who went into the death camps to service machines. Companies doing business with these monsters fully aware of what was going on. IBM denies this but weakly.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted January 27, 2019 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

        I was just listening to Kamala Harris’s campaign speech. Let the sun shine in.

        • rickflick
          Posted January 27, 2019 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

          Well, let’s hope someone can get elected. She’s a pretty impressive person. But, she could have left out the first clause: “With faith in God, with fidelity to country, and with the fighting spirit I got from my mother,…
          But, then, who’s going to elect an atheist in 2020? Not ready yet.

          • gravelinspector-Aidan
            Posted January 29, 2019 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

            We know who the candidate will be.

  9. stuartcoyle
    Posted January 27, 2019 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    It is our responsibility to ensure that such a thing never happens again (even though similar things have occurred on a smaller scale).

    I can only imagine how terrible this was. Is imagination enough? I hope so.

    We must all stand up to those who would rule by violence, fear, and mob mentality.

  10. mfdempsey1946
    Posted January 27, 2019 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    In the wake of the Holocaust, a shriek of worldwide desolation arose:

    “Never again!”

    Horrific as it is to say so, human history nonetheless has not stopped perverting this idealistic outcry into “Ever again!” — often gleefully so, even if these further acts of brutality do not precisely match the details or the vastness of the Nazi regime’s state-sanctioned evil.

    Ever since the savagery of the Holocaust became common knowledge to anyone paying attention, through pictures like these, innumerable videos, and accounts of survivors (the deniers be damned), “faith in humanity,” as opposed to a good many individual humans, has become more and more difficult to maintain with the passing of every subsequent year.

  11. Jenny Haniver
    Posted January 27, 2019 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    I noted this in today’s Hili Dialogue, but repeat here:

    “Everyone should read ‘Denying the Holocaust’ by Deborah Lipstadt.”

    And “today is a day to read “Finding My Father’s Auschwitz File” by Allen Herskowitz https://www.nybooks.com/daily/2019/01/25/finding-my-fathers-auschwitz-file/. I’d just reread this before this post went up and even though I’ve seen similar photos, to see the very places that Herskowitz writes about in this hauntingly personal reflection, was moving and disturbing.

    • DrBrydon
      Posted January 27, 2019 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

      People should also read her History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier about her being sued by David Irving for her description him as a Holocaust denier. It gives one an insight into the mindset of the deniers, and shows that the fight isn’t over. Also worth reading is Richard Evans book recounting his role as an expert witness in the trial, Lying About Hitler, which gives several extensive examples of how an author (Irving) can twist History. There is then a third book that came out of the trial, which I have not yet read, called The Case for Auschwitz: Evidence from the Irving Trial by Robert van Pelt. It was developed from his testimony about the existence of gas chambers at Auschwitz.

  12. ed hessler
    Posted January 27, 2019 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for posting these images.

    I’m never surprised by one of the effects of such images: they quiet me and haunt me.

    I suspect most of WEIT readers have read Primo Levi’s work about the Holocaust and the aftermath, e.g., If This Is A Man, The Truce, The Drowned And The Saved and parts of The Periodic Table–Lilith, too.

    If not, I recommend them.

  13. Posted January 27, 2019 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    Terrifying and sad beyond words. And the bureaucratic documenting and photographing of these poor doomed souls makes it even more sickening.

    • Posted January 27, 2019 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

      By the Nazis, I mean. It is good they did so these victims are not nameless and faceless.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted January 27, 2019 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

        There are in,June archives too. My mom found the grandparents of some family friends whose grandparents were taken in the night from Holland. She found their names in the Auschwitz lists. I remember looking at family albums of these family friends with their grandparents in winter coats with the star pinned in them.

        • Posted January 27, 2019 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

          There is something terribly haunting about the eyes of the people in those pictures. Whether it is horror, disbelief, dazed or all three. I don’t know, but it is unforgettable.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted January 27, 2019 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

            And my autocorrect! No idea how “June” got in there. But yes, I’m sure they were thinking it would resolve itself and not come to this. I think of this often – don’t rely on it to get better.

          • Taz
            Posted January 28, 2019 at 12:18 am | Permalink

            The eyes are what struck me as well – and they’re all the same.

  14. BJ
    Posted January 27, 2019 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    I went to the Holocaust Museum in DC when I was about ten years old. I remember very little from my childhood, but I’ll never forget many of the things I saw there. The pile of shoes from those who died. The train cars. The videos of testimony from survivors.

    I have ancestors who died in those camps. I have many friends whose ancestors died in those camps. I often think that, if some of our ancestors didn’t survive, we wouldn’t be here today. And I think of the many people who aren’t here today because their ancestors didn’t make it out alive.

    • BJ
      Posted January 27, 2019 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

      “And I think of the many people who aren’t here today because their ancestors didn’t make it out alive.”

      I guess I should have said “would-be ancestors.”

  15. Diana MacPherson
    Posted January 27, 2019 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    I just stumbled upon this article https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/auschwitz-survivors-pay-homage-world-remembers-holocaust-n963266?cid=sm_npd_nn_fb_ma

    It’s interesting for several reasons – it reports there was a counter protest at Auschwitz today. Counter protest! People protesting survivors commemorating Auschwitz! Many counter protestors (how can they be called that when the people there to commemorate weren’t protesting anything?!) were holding signs that said “stop fascism” with an Israeli flag. The article later shows interesting stats – that attacks on Israel were anti Jewish in nature (surprise, surprise) and that a shocking number of people don’t know how many Jews were exterminated and something like 1 in 50 Britons don’t believe the holocaust happened.

    There are no words. I fear for our dystopian future.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted January 27, 2019 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

      The only thing I can tell ya is we can only take care of one country at a time. We have to take care of ours first, then we can go after whatever is wrong with Europe.

      Way back in WWII, when American soldiers came through a town during the war, people came out to welcome them and did not fear them. You could not say that about most other soldiers and we need to correct those problems in our own system today.

      • Historian
        Posted January 27, 2019 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

        I am almost moved to tears whenever I watch a film of U.S troops marching through Paris on August 29, 1944. Such scenes will almost certainly never happen again. Here is one video:

        • rickflick
          Posted January 27, 2019 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

          Makes me more eager than ever to see They Shall Not Grow Old.

        • Posted January 28, 2019 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

          Connected, somewhat: I have a relative on my mother’s side who was forced into being a Nazi conscript at the end of the war. He was captured by the Americans who realized he was just a teenager and so (doubly, in a way) should be treated humanely. He was given cigarettes and girly magazines by his captors (against policy) because he was recognized as a victim too.

          These days …

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted January 27, 2019 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

        I made the mistake of reading some of the comments to an article that quoted the stats above. These comments were on FB as it was a CBC article and they had not turned on comments on the actual article. Smart. Most was people arguing if the holocaust was taught in schools but sprinkled among those comments were the neo Nazi anti Jew conspiracy theories. Here are some paraphrased:

        We only learn this because Israel has an agenda.

        Israel needs to learn about the holocaust.

        It happened but it wasn’t 6 million. That is a huge exaggeration.

        Then the whatabouting which isn’t conspiracy theory but it easi,y leads into the “Israel agenda” one: what about the people who died who weren’t Jews? Why are we only talking about Jews? What about Rwanda? What about the residential school system?

        Yes, yes those were all bad but we are talking about his one thing right now. And why did no one mention the debacle in the former Yugoslavia? Canadian Peace keepers were there too just like Rwanda. But good grief. I had to stop reading and come back here. What a mess it is out there.

        • rickflick
          Posted January 27, 2019 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

          Too grim.

  16. Posted January 27, 2019 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for this post.

  17. Timothy Bagley
    Posted January 27, 2019 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for your thoughts and photos. We must never forget!

  18. Randall Schenck
    Posted January 27, 2019 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

    During WWII the little town I was from in SW Iowa had a prison camp. Even out in the middle of nowhere everyone wanted to make money from the war so they got their prison cp. At first they had German prisoners and then toward the end, Japanese prisoners. During summer months they would take the German prisoners out to work on local farms. I remember my dad telling me in very unhappy terms, the wives of the farmers, mostly all Germans would bring food out to the prisoners and treat them better than the guards. I always remembered that.

  19. Posted January 27, 2019 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

    Re-read Angela if Our Better Nature.
    We will all be fine.

    • Posted January 27, 2019 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

      Angels. – not Angela

      • Posted January 27, 2019 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

        Angels of Our Better Nature

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted January 27, 2019 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

          Here, let me: Better Angels of Our Nature. (Checks several times because of muphry’s and what happened with Diane G).

          • Posted January 27, 2019 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

            Thanks. But don’t remember Murphy’s. Probably better that I don’t.

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted January 27, 2019 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

              Google “muphry’s” spelled just like this. It happens here a lot.

              • Posted January 27, 2019 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

                Thanks again. Never saw that before.

            • gravelinspector-Aidan
              Posted January 29, 2019 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

              Those who forget Muphrys are condemned to repeat ti.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted January 29, 2019 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

                🤣

  20. revelator60
    Posted January 27, 2019 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

    Haunting indeed. And chilling. What an evil place—after seeing your photos, I don’t wish to visit, but I’m thankful that you did and took such photographs. It is a monument to humankind at its worst, and I hope it will remain for hundreds of years to remind us of the infamy our species is capable of. The counterpart of higher civilization is a higher barbarism, and sadly they have accompanied each other through the centuries.

    The photograph of shoes reminds me of a song Pete Atkin and Clive James wrote, called a “A Hill of Little Shoes.” It was inspired by a similar photograph. I shed tears every time I hear it:
    http://www.peteatkin.com/play/i66w.htm

    • David Coxill
      Posted January 28, 2019 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

      In the film “The Pawnbroker ” about 8.55 minutes in when Sol Nazerman ins driving into work ,he passes a shop window piled up with shoes ,when i watch the film i am always reminded about that photo of the pile of shoes at Auschwitz.

  21. mikeb
    Posted January 28, 2019 at 3:52 am | Permalink

    There is always this part of me, whenever I see such pictures, it says, “This could not have happened.” I can’t really embrace the horror.

    I even got to meet Richard Plant many years ago, when we were producing the play “Bent” in our town. He “wrote the book” on the gay angle of the Holocaust.

    But no matter how much I’m exposed to it, I can’t really grok that It Happened. Makes me wonder if I’ll recognize it when it happens again.

  22. Andrea Kenner
    Posted January 28, 2019 at 5:52 am | Permalink

    Horrifying. My husband’s parents escaped the Nazis. I really do not know how they were able to survive.

  23. Geoff Toscano
    Posted January 28, 2019 at 7:01 am | Permalink

    I’ve seen so much of Europe and its WW11 legacy (Oradour-sur-glane had a big effect on me, though it wasn’t a massacre of Jews), but I’ve never been to Auschwitz. I’m not sure really that I want to go, but I feel as though I ought, so I’m building it into an East European motorcycle tour I’ve got planned for next year. I want, at least, to keep my anger frothing at those who attempt to deny, or minimise, these heinous, inhuman, events.

    • Posted January 28, 2019 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

      There are an unbelievable amount of people who seem to think that Nazism (or fascism generally) is “leftist”. I can only assume this is a gross failure of education prompted by motivated reasoning, but …

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted January 28, 2019 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

        Yes, it’s a failure of education. I don’t think I knew until I took history of the modern state in university. It doesn’t help that Hitler referred to the NAZI party as the National Socialists.

        • David Coxill
          Posted January 28, 2019 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

          I post comments on the Independent comments page ,the subject of nazis being socialist pops up again and again .

          I always reply that the socialist part was just a sop to the likes of the Strasser brothers ,

  24. Posted January 28, 2019 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    We must never forget.

  25. Ullrich Fischer
    Posted January 28, 2019 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    Niemals Wieder! Trumpettes must be defeated!

  26. Posted January 29, 2019 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    Lest we forget . . . or others deny that this really happened.

  27. Diane G
    Posted January 30, 2019 at 4:42 am | Permalink

    Never has it been truer to say that the pictures speak for themselves. Just profoundly devastating. Thank you, Jerry, for this stark testament to the horror. Lest we forget…

  28. Posted February 7, 2019 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    I first came across Ann Frank’s diary back before 2004, my girls watched the movies over and over again when young and at primary school aswell has boy in the striped pyjamas you must of seen do much when you went thank you for sharing your adventure , neat to read


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