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Inside the Epicenter of the Horror – Photographs of the Sonderkommando

A fenced off area containing pits used for the burning of bodies when the crematoria could not keep up with the workload in 1944

A fenced off area containing pits used for the burning of bodies when the crematoria could not keep up with the workload in 1944

The photographs usually shown are only part of the original pictures.

They are cropped to highlight the “important” details, which are the atrocities that are taking place in Auschwitz-Birkenau, apparently because this was seen as the most useful documentary element: showing the victims themselves. The decision to crop the photos was apparently made in 1944 by the original Polish photographer who was working with “Tell”, the underground operative to whom the photos were sent; the original, uncropped versions did not surface until 1985.4 Even today, the photographs are usually displayed in their cropped forms and not in their original forms. They also restructure the image so that the figures appear more “natural”, standing straight up.

Two of the original photographs (those of the Sonderkommando cremating corpses), however, are surrounded by a black frame and the photograph of the naked women, shows mostly the trees and the surroundings; only when you take a close look at the photo can you see the naked women in the lower left-hand corner.

Three of the original, uncropped versions can be seen here (the photo of the trees described above is not contained in this gallery).

By cropping out the original blackness at the edges of the images the photos are dislocated from their original perspective and delete information about the photographer. The uncropped version shows us the position of the photographers as well as the conditions under which they took the pictures. It shows us the fact that they had to hide in the crematorium building and had to hastily shoot the images through a doorway or a window, which contributed to their blurriness and distorted angles. Reframing and changing the picture cuts out all of these details and makes us believe that the photographer was able to walk around in the open air and freely take photographs of what was happening outside.

The black frame that doesn’t show very much is as valuable as the other parts of the picture. Pictures don’t exist by themselves, but in the context of the act that made them possible. The black frame represents the room, the dark chamber in which the person had to step back to take the picture. It represents the situation of the shot itself, the place that made its existence possible. The removal of the dark zone in order to get “clear” information makes believe that the picture was taken calmly, and thus mocks the danger and the resistance. By cutting out the frame, the phenomenology is blocked out and with it everything that makes this photograph an event (the process, the work, the danger and the placement).

Using the images as they were made, in a series, offers the possibility of montage of history in order to gain a better understanding of the events. These pictures, and photographs in general, need to be understood as fragmented moments of an event, not as an image of the whole Holocaust. They are impressions of the reality as well as their own interpretation. They are great tools of expression, visual testimony and proof. They play an important role in the collective process of commemoration and remembrance.

The importance of the Sonderkommando photographs is in what they depict – they are an extract of the actual extermination of Jews – and in the actual act of taking the pictures – in comparison to other Auschwitz photographs, these actually show the danger and the resistance in the act of taking a photograph. They were ripped out of the reality to prove something that nobody believed could be true. They address the unimaginable and prove the unimaginable to be real at the same time. To read about the atrocities makes them sometimes hard to believe, but the four pictures are proof of the secret, the lie and the strategy: to stigmatize Auschwitz as something unimaginable and therefore untrue by destroying all traces, all human morals, destroying the weapons of extermination themselves – the gas chambers – and by destroying the memory of the extermination.

These four photographs are of immense importance because they prove that the unimaginable is imaginable: nobody can deny the existence of the pictures. The photographs are only one moment of the “truth”, but they are invaluable, since they are all we have regarding the extermination.

Some critics have argued that these partially-comprehensible images depicting only a small part of the destruction process would come to be seen as representative of the entire Holocaust, thus reducing the scale and extension of the horror to a few randomly-captured moments. It has been also said that since there is no single image which can depict the entire Holocaust in its diversity, it is preferable to not show actual images of the genocide.5

George Didi-Huberman, who analyses the four Sonderkommando photographs, insists on the necessity of viewing these images, which had been created “in spite of all” and survived “in spite of all”. He explains that: “[t]hey are infinitely precious to us today. They are demanding too, for they require archeological work. We must dig again in their ever so fragile temporality.”6

Didi-Huberman adds a significant dimension to the ethics of historical memory: mere viewing is insufficient. It is not enough to look at the exhibit, in order to “never forget”.

The photographs are tiny details of a complex reality, a short moment – but they become the “truth” themselves – the reality of Auschwitz that stays visual for us. The purpose of the pictures was to show the reality of Auschwitz and to make it accessible for the rest of the world. A picture can begin where all words stop and categories fail.

The function of Auschwitz was to deny the humanity of its victims and to destroy their lives and any documents of their existence. To oppose the destruction of all pictures and to take a picture despite everything means in this context an act of resistance – to keep a picture for the rest of the world, to resist actively, to acknowledge the others and to maintain one’s own humanity. Therefore it is necessary to understand the pictures. They are lacking information but they confront us with the act of temporary survivors as well as the tragedy of the Sonderkommando.

The Sonderkommando photographs are proof of the crime and proof of the trust of the Sonderkommando members in visual evidence and resistance.

Conclusion

Photographs are so powerful because they seem utterly real. They seem to represent reality without any mediation. We believe that they come directly to us without any manipulation. However, the Sonderkommando photographs prove that we must be much more critical when viewing photographs – we must remember to ask the important questions. Only then will we be able to truly understand the reality they depict.

Sours: https://www.yadvashem.org/articles/general/epicenter-horror-photographs-sonderkommando.html

Historical Pictures


Child survivors of the Auschwitz concentration camp


Women prisoners in barracks at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp


Child survivors of the Auschwitz concentration camp


A pregnant woman and her children arriving at the Auschwitz concentration camp


The electric fence and a guard tower at the Auschwitz concentration camp. Photograph by J. Kuś


German chemist Fritz Haber, creator of Zyklon B, a pesticide used for killing humans in German Nazi concentration camps, in his laboratory


Children at a German Nazi concentration camp


German Nazi doctors conducting pseudo-medical experiments


The electric fence and a guard tower at the Auschwitz concentration camp. Photograph by C.O. Mostowski


A female prisoner after camp liberation


Child prisoners at the Auschwitz concentration camp


The selection ramp at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp


German officers preparing for execution


Barracks at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp


The selection process


Mothers and children in a concentration camp


The ramp at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp


Bodies of victims of the Auschwitz concentration camp


A musulman after camp liberation


Cans of Zyklon B


The selection process


Adolf Hitler and his officers


Mothers and children after selection for the gas chamber


Piles of dead bodies


Barracks at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Photograph by A. Kaczkowski


Prisoners in a German Nazi concentration camp


Mothers and children after selection


Prisoners of the Mauthausen concentration camp


Mothers and children (Auschwitz-Birkenau)


Selection for the gas chamber at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp


The Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Photograph by W. Rospondek


The selection ramp at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp


A German doctor examining a little girl for “racial purity”


Mothers and children after selection (Auschwitz-Birkenau)


Mothers and children (Auschwitz-Birkenau)


Prisoners in a German Nazi concentration camp


Corpses of prisoners of the Auschwitz concentration camp (Block 11)


Entrance into the Auschwitz main camp (27 January 1945)


Women prisoners in barracks at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp


Arthur Greiser, one of the organizers of the Holocaust


Corpses of prisoners of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp


Memorial at the former Bergen-Belsen concentration camp


Barracks at the Majdanek concentration camp


The Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp (27 January 1945)


An abandoned brickwork block at Auschwitz after liberation, 1945


The Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp (27 January 1945)


An abandoned wooden barrack Auschwitz-Birkenau after liberation, 1945


The gate at the Buchenwald concentration camp: Jedem das Seine (to each his own)

Sours: https://www.mp.pl/auschwitz/photo-gallery/172211,historical-pictures
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Auschwitz Photos

Shocking Pictures of History

Sometimes thousands of words can not replace the picture.

After watching these Auschwitz pictures you will truly understand, how important is this place for our history.

Photos below are only a small part of what happened there, but will give you almost full picture of Auschwitz Concentration Camp‘s tragedy that you will see during the Auschwitz Tours.

Are you sure you are ready for that?

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Auschwitz photos – a testimony of immense suffering

Watching Auschwitz photos, we often leave our comfort zone.

Why are they so moving?

In the Auschwitz pictures, we can see inhumane conditions of the camp and sad moments from prisoners’ everyday life.

Thanks to those views we can also imagine how big was the scale of their suffering.

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Victims of Auschwitz / source: news.bbc.co.uk

The numbers complete this picture.

There were 1,100,000 human beings killed in Auschwitz between May 1940 and January 1945.

Shocking enough?

Even more, when you realize that the people perished in the Holocaust would amount to much more than the current population of Krakow.

Deadful way to Auschwitz

The first transport to Auschwitz Concentration Camp took place on June 14, 1940.

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Soon, thousands of cattle cars overloaded with people would arrive at the ramp of Auschwitz a year.

Many people did not survive the transport with the horrific conditions kept inside.

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Where were they from?

The prisoners of Auschwitz were transported from many ghettoes of occupied Europe.

But they were not only Jews

A considerable number of non-Jewish inmates were constituted by the political enemies of the Third Reich. They were also members of resistance movements.

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Selection ramp in Auschwitz photos

The selection of prisoners was conducted within the three railroad ramps of the camp.

The last one was put inside Auschwitz-Birkenau facility.

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Ramp in Auschwitz II -Birkenau

As seen in the Auschwitz pictures below, the transported ones are carrying heavy bags and suitcases with the possessions of their lifetime.

Why do they have all their properties?

They were usually thinking that they will be transported to another ghetto to live on.

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There are countless people of all ages, nationalities or beliefs.

After unloading from the cattle cars arriving at the ramp they were robbed and first forced to form lines on the basis of their sex.

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Nazi physiologists were classifying people according to their health status and availability for work.

There was no mercy.

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Children and people of poor health were sent to gas chambers.

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Families were separated and “troublesome” individuals immediately shot.

German soldiers did whatever they wanted.

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Confisticated goods in Auschwitz pictures

Have you seen such a sad view before?

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The piles of shoes, glasses, toys, false teeth and luggages – all of these remains on display within Auschwitz exhibitions up to this date.

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Anything that was deemed suitable for re-use in the territory of the Third Reich was subject to brutally-carried out confiscation from the inmates of Auschwitz.

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Nazis loading the stolen goods from the trains to the trucks.

It’s hard to accept, right?

Kanada barrack close in Auschwitz photos

Have you heard about Auschwitz’s “Kanada”?

This was the place where the most valuable items from prisoners were stored.

According to the literature by Tadeusz Borowski – it was named after Canada as it was regarded as the richest country in the world at the time.

 auschwitz-photos-cases

 Things left in “Canada” were destroyed as the Soviets advanced through Europe. The Nazis preferred to burn them than to have them taken by the enemy.

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Wedding rings were melted back into pure gold. The picture shows U.S. troops as they find these rings.

These pictures show the enormity of the tragedy.

Auschwitz barracks – terrible condidtions shown in pictures

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The barracks of Auschwitz II were originally designed to serve as stables for horses.

It wasn’t a problem for the camp authorities.

Aimed to accommodate for 400 prisoners, they were reported to house as many as 2,000 per a barrack at the end of 1944.

In the Auschwitz photos we can see the horrific conditions inside their cramped interiors. The presence of lice and illnesses, hunger and mental breakdowns all around the place.

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It was the everyday reality of the Auschwitz camp.

You must agree that these are inhumane conditions.

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As stated by many survivors, there were only one latrine operating per 30,000 prisoners of Auschwitz, with the precisely set time when one was able to use it.

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Photos from Auschwitz of deadly gas chambers

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The set of 5 gas chambers built in Auschwitz-Birkenau was ready for use in 1943.

Mostly placed underground, they were designed to resemble shower rooms.

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Gas chamber’s wall / source: commons.wikimedia.org

What was the whole process like?

Prisoners selected for immediate death went to a special room where they took off their clothes.

Sonderkommando officers locked the heavy door of the chamber each time a group of 800-2,000 individuals filled the place.

 auschwitz-photos-cyklonb

20 to 30 minutes after Zyklon B cans were dropped inside, gas chambers would be ventilated.

The corpses were dragged out of the chamber after gassing.

But it wasn’t the end.

Final things taken away were the hair, any metal dental elements and jewellery.

Crematories as one of the most fearful view in Auschwitz pictures

Sonderkommando transported the bodies from the gas chambers to the 5 crematories of Auschwitz.

A lot, right?

 auschiwtz-photos-bodies

What happened next?

The bodies were burnt inside them. 

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Chimneys of destroyed barracks

How many of them?

8,000 a day what means 1,600,000 bodies that might have potentially been burnt inside the camp a year.

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Hair taken from the corpses of gassed women.

Some of corpses were being prepared to be disposed of in the fire pits. This happened as the crematoria didn’t have the capacity to deal with all the bodies.

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Mengele cruel experiments taken in Auschwitz photos

You had to hear about the Mengele.

 auschwitz-photos-front

Hospital where brutal experiments like sterilization took place

“The Angel of Death”, Josef Mengele was the expert of medicine in Auschwitz.

auschwitz-photos-starve

But he wasn’t helping people at all.

For example his methods of getting rid of the “lice problem” relied on sending the entire number of 750 female inmates to gas chambers.

 auschwitz-photo-prison

He drew the famous line at the height of 150-56 on one of the walls of Auschwitz.

What for?

Being shorter than this made everyone ultimately sentenced to death.

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Joseph Mengele had his interest focused on twins. Auschwitz pictures of them are one of the most shocking photos.

Over 3,000 twin children were spared from death at the selection ramp and subject to his inhuman experiments.

 auschwitz-photos-twins

What kind of?

Twins were:

  • forced to enter pressure chambers
  • starved
  • frozen to death
  • castrated
  • injected with eye colour-changing agents
  • sewn together to make Siamese twins
  • and operated in many others inhuman ways.

 auschiwtz-photos-experiment

With the help of family, Joseph Mengele fled to Argentina once the war was over. After all the inhuman deeds he made, he peacefully reached the age of 68 in Brazil.

Liberation of the camp in Auschwitz photos

On January 27, 1945, the Soviet forces entered the Auschwitz Concentration Camp.

The 2,819 inmates were left after the Nazi troops abandoned the place.

But the sight that they found was much sadder.

Forces found also 600 bodies of prisoners shot during the escape of the camp staff or deceased because of the barbaric treatment there.

 auschwitz-photos-survivors

Unfortunatelly prior to the liberation, more than 110,000 prisoners of Auschwitz were forced to be evacuated to the more west-oriented camps.

In what way?

Taking part in “dead marches” during which most of people were shot, marking the trail of blood with their massacred bodies.

auschwitz-photos-kids

Before the Nazis abandoned the camp, they had managed to destroy a lot of records and facilities serving their murderous ideology.

Fortunately, a lot of evidence survived.

The hanging of Rudolph Hoss

This longest-serving commandant of Auschwitz Concentration Camp has been directly involved in each part of Auschwitz’s functioning.

For what was he convicted?

Accused of having caused the death of 3,500,000 people, he “only” admitted to be related to 2,500,000 of such deaths.

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He hanged in front of Crematorium I of Auschwitz on April 2, 1947.

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Justice will be served.

The impact of Auschwitz on human psyche

There are also many paintings of Auschwitz everyday’s life.

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All Auschwitz pictures drew by Auschwitz survivors were smoky and filled with dark, yellow and grey colours.

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Scary scenes from Auschwitz

In many cases confronting with the outcome of human memory of Auschwitz placed on paper exposed them to the real vision of the tragedy that happened there.

We can only guess that it wasn’t easy.

Sours: https://discovercracow.com/auschwitz-photos/
Surviving the Holocaust: Segment 6 — The Gas Chambers

Auschwitz-Birkenau: Crematoria & Gas Chambers

Crematorium I

Crematorium I operated [at Auschwitz] from August 15, 1940 until July 1943. According to calculations by the German authorities, 340 corpses could be burned every 24 hours after the installation of the three furnaces.

The largest room in this building was designated as a morgue. It was adapted as the first provisional gas chamber in the autumn of 1941. The SS used Zyklon B to kill thousands of Jews upon arrival, as well as several groups of Soviet prisoners of war.

Prisoners selected in the hospital as unlikely to recover their health quickly were also killed in the gas chamber. Poles sentenced to death by the German summary court.

After the establishment in Auschwitz II-Birkenau of two more provisional gas chambers, Bunkers No. 1 and 2 (the so-called "little red house" and "little white house"), the camp authorities shifted the mass murder of the Jews there and gradually stopped using the first gas chamber.

After the completion of four crematoria with gas chambers in Auschwitz II-Birkenau, the burning of corpses in Crematorium I was halted. The building was used for storage, and then designated as an SS air-raid shelter. The furnaces, chimney, and some of the walls were demolished, and the openings in the roof through which the SS poured Zyklon B were plastered.

After the war, the Museum carried out a partial reconstruction. The chimney and two incinerators were rebuilt using original components, as were and several of the openings in the gas chamber roof.

Bunker No. 1

When larger Jewish transports were sent to Auschwitz concentration camp in the first half of 1942, the Nazis began using - in addition to the first operational gas chamber - two provisional gas chambers set up in farmhouses whose owners had been evicted from the village of Brzezinka.

Jewish men, women, and children, as well as Polish political prisoners selected by physicians in the camp hospital, were killed with poison gas in Bunker No. 1, which was also known as "the little red house" (because of its brick walls). The bunker contained two provisional gas chambers. It operated from the early months of 1942 until the spring and summer of 1943, when four new buildings with gas chambers and crematorium furnaces came into use in Birkenau concentration camp. At that time, Bunker No. 1 was demolished and the adjacent burning pits were filled in and landscaped.

Bunker No. 2

When larger Jewish transports were sent to Auschwitz concentration camp in the first part of 1942, the Nazis began using - in addition to the first operational gas chamber - two provisional gas chambers set up in farmhouses belonging to people who had been expelled from the village of Brzezinka.

Jewish men, women, and children, as well as Polish political prisoners selected by physicians in the camp hospital, were killed with poison gas in Bunker No. 2, which was also known as "the little white house" (because of the color of the plaster covering its walls). The bunker contained four provisional gas chambers, which operated from 1942 four new buildings with gas chambers and crematorium furnaces came into use in Birkenau concentration camp in the spring and summer of 1943. In the period when the Germans needed additional gas chambers for the destruction of the Jews deported from Hungary in 1944, they temporarily put Bunker No. 2 back into operation.

Crematorium II

The Crematorium II building, which contained a gas chamber and furnaces for burning corpses. Several hundred thousand Jewish men, women and children were murdered here with poison gas, and their bodies burned. The bodies of Jewish and non-Jewish prisoners who died in the concentration camp were also burned here. According to calculations by the German authorities, 1,440 corpses could be burned in this crematorium every 24 hours. According to the testimony of former prisoners, the figure was higher.

The gas chamber and Crematorium II functioned from March 1943 through November 1944.

At the end of the war, in connection with the operation intended to remove the evidence of their crimes, the camp authorities ordered the demolition of the furnaces and crematorium building in November 1944. On January 20, 1945, the SS blew up whatever had not been removed.

Crematorium III

The Crematorium III building, which contained a gas chamber and furnaces for burning corpses. Several hundred thousand Jewish men, women and children were murdered here with poison gas, and their bodies burned. The bodies of Jewish and non-Jewish prisoners who died in the concentration camp were also burned here. According to calculations by the German authorities, 1,440 corpses could be burned in this crematorium every 24 hours. According to the testimony of former prisoners, the figure was higher.

The gas chamber and Crematorium III functioned from June 1943 through November 1944.

At the end of the war, in connection with the operation intended to remove the evidence of their crimes, the camp authorities ordered the demolition of the furnaces and crematorium building in November 1944. On January 20, 1945, the SS blew up whatever had not been removed.

Crematorium IV

The Crematorium IV building, which contained a gas chamber and furnaces for burning corpses.

Thousands of Jewish men, women and children were murdered here with poison gas, and their bodies burned.

The bodies of Jewish and non-Jewish prisoners who died in the concentration camp were also burned here. According to calculations by the German authorities, 768 corpses could be burned in this crematorium every 24 hours. According to the testimony of former prisoners, the figure was higher.

The apparatus of mass murder in this building functioned, with interruptions, from March 1943 until October 7, 1944. The building was burned down on the day of the mutiny of the Jewish prisoners from the Sonderkommando.

Crematorium V

The Crematorium V building contained a gas chamber and furnaces for burning corpses. Thousands of Jewish men, women and children were murdered here with poison gas, and their bodies burned.

The bodies of Jewish and non-Jewish prisoners who died in the concentration camp were also burned here. According to calculations by the German authorities, 768 corpses could be burned in this crematorium every 24 hours. According to the testimony of former prisoners, the figure was higher.

At times, the bodies of the people who had been murdered were also burned on pyres in pits located near Crematorium V and the so-called bunkers.

The apparatus of mass murder in this building functioned, with interruptions, from April 1943 until January 1945. In connection with the operation intended to remove the evidence of their crimes, the SS blew up the building on January 26, 1945.


Sources: The State Museum of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Reprinted with permission.

Sours: https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/crematoria-and-gas-chambers-at-auschwitz-birkenau

Picture gas chamber

Photos show the horrors of Auschwitz, 75 years after its liberation

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view of auschwitz II
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
  • January 27, 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the Soviet Army's liberation of Auschwitz, the largest and deadliest Nazi concentration complex.
  • First established in 1940 in German-occupied Poland, Auschwitz had a concentration camp, a labor camp, large gas chambers, and crematoria.
  • More than 1.1 million people were murdered at Auschwitz, including nearly one million Jews. On the day of liberation, only 7,000 were saved.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

It was the greatest tragedy of the Holocaust. In just five years, over one million people were murdered at Auschwitz, the largest and deadliest Nazi concentration camp.

Auschwitz was established in 1940 and located in the suburbs of Oswiecim, a Polish city the Germans annexed. Between 1940 and 1945, it grew to include three main camp centers and a slew of subcamps — each of which were used for forced labor, torture, and mass killing.

An estimated 1.3 million people were deported to Auschwitz during its five-year operation, and approximately 1.1 million were killed.

The terror of Auschwitz finally subsided on January 27, 1945, when the Soviet Army liberated the remaining 7,000 prisoners from the camps.

On the 75th anniversary of this liberation, these photos exhibit the horror and history of Auschwitz.

Auschwitz was established in 1940 in the suburbs of Oswiecim, Poland. During its first year, authorities cleared 15 square miles for the camp.

Ariel view of Auschwitz, 2019 (Christopher Furlong:Getty Images)
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Source: The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Auschwitz I, the first camp to undergo construction, was initially created for three reasons: to imprison enemies, to use forced labor, and to kill certain groups of people.

barracks photo updated size
Markus Schreiber/AP

Sources: The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Auschwitz‑Birkenau Memorial and State Museum 

Construction of the largest camp, Auschwitz II, also called Auschwitz-Birkenau, began in October 1941. Electrified barbed wire divided it into 10 different sections.

Remains of prison barracks (AP Markus Schreiber) size updated
Markus Schreiber/AP

Sources: Jewish Virtual Library, The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Auschwitz-Birkenau's different sections were for "women; men; a family camp for Roma (Gypsies) deported from Germany, Austria, and the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia; and a family camp for Jewish families deported from the Theresienstadt ghetto," according to the Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Women in the barracks
Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images

Sources: The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Inmates were put into poorly structured wooden barracks with 36 bunks each. Five to six prisoners were packed in so over 500 prisoners were in each unit.

Inmates lying on bunks after liberation (Reuters Pictures Archive).JPG
Reuters Pictures Archive

Source: The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Incoming prisoners who were selected for forced labor received tattoos and had a serial number sewn into their uniforms. Auschwitz was the only concentration camp to do this.

Prisoner tattoo
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Source: The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Shortly after construction, Auschwitz-Birkenau became the largest killing center and central location for the extermination of Jews in Europe.

bodies of prisoners shortly after camp was liberated
Reuters

Source: Museum of Jewish Heritage

Sours: https://www.businessinsider.com/auschwitz-photos-nazi-camp-history-liberation-anniversary-2020-1
Surviving the Holocaust: Segment 6 — The Gas Chambers

Auschwitz: How death camp became centre of Nazi Holocaust

Image source, Getty Images

On 27 January 1945, Soviet troops cautiously entered Auschwitz.

Primo Levi - one of the most famous survivors - was lying in a camp hospital with scarlet fever when the liberators arrived.

The men cast "strangely embarrassed glances at the sprawling bodies, at the battered huts and at us few still alive", he would later write.

"They did not greet us, nor did they smile; they seemed oppressed not only by compassion but by... the feeling of guilt that such a crime should exist."

"We saw emaciated, tortured, impoverished people," soldier Ivan Martynushkin said of liberating the death camp. "We could tell from their eyes that they were happy to be saved from this hell."

In just over four-and-a-half years, Nazi Germany systematically murdered at least 1.1 million people at Auschwitz. Almost one million were Jews.

Those deported to the camp complex were gassed, starved, worked to death and even killed in medical experiments. The vast majority were murdered in the complex of gas chambers at Auschwitz II-Birkenau camp.

Six million Jewish people died in the Holocaust - the Nazi campaign to eradicate Europe's Jewish population. Auschwitz was at the centre of that genocide.

When the Nazis came to power in 1933 they began to strip Jewish people of all property, freedoms and rights under the law. After the German invasion and occupation of Poland in 1939, the Nazis started deporting Jewish people from the Third Reich to parts of Poland, where they created ghettos to separate them from the rest of the population.

In 1941, during the German invasion of the USSR, the Nazis began their campaign of extermination in earnest. Nazis spoke about their invasion as a race war between Germany and Jewish people, as well as the Slavic population and the Roma.

Groups of German soldiers called Einsatzgruppen set out across newly conquered lands in Eastern Europe to massacre civilians. By the end of 1941, they had killed 500,000 people, and by 1945 they had murdered about two million - 1.3 million of whom were Jewish.

Behind the lines, Nazi commanders were experimenting with ways to kill en masse. They feared that shooting people was too stressful for their soldiers, and so came up with more efficient means of murder.

Experimental gas vans had been used to kill mentally disabled people in Poland as early as 1939. Poisonous fumes were pumped into a sealed compartment to suffocate those inside. By the winter of 1941, the Nazis had constructed gas chambers at Auschwitz.

Nazi leaders met in January 1942 at the Wannsee Conference to coordinate the industrial slaughter - what they called a "final solution to the Jewish question" - killing the entire European Jewish population, 11 million people, by extermination and forced labour.

Auschwitz was originally a Polish army barracks in southern Poland. Nazi Germany invaded and occupied Poland in September 1939, and by May 1940 turned the site into a jail for political prisoners.

This area - with the infamous lie Arbeit Macht Frei written above the entrance in German - meaning work sets you free - became known as Auschwitz I.

But as the war and the Holocaust progressed, the Nazi regime greatly developed the site.

The first people to be gassed were a group of Polish and Soviet prisoners in September 1941. Work began on a new camp, Auschwitz II-Birkenau, the following month. This became the site of the huge gas chambers where hundreds of thousands were murdered prior to November 1944, and the crematoria where their bodies were burned.

German chemicals company IG Farben built and operated a synthetic rubber factory at Auschwitz III-Monowitz. Other private companies like Krupp and Siemens-Schuckert also ran factories nearby, to use the prisoners as slave labour. Both Primo Levi and Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel survived Monowitz concentration camp.

When Auschwitz was eventually liberated, it had more than 40 camps and subcamps. How Auschwitz became centre of Nazi Holocaust

People from all over Europe were crammed into cattle wagons without windows, toilets, seats or food, and transported to Auschwitz.

There they were sorted into those who could work and those who were to be immediately killed.

The latter group were ordered to strip naked and sent to the showers for "delousing" - a euphemism used for the gas chambers.

Image source, Getty Images
Image source, Getty Images

Guards from the so-called "Hygienic Institute" would then drop powerful Zyklon-B gas pellets into the sealed chambers, and wait for people to die. It took about 20 minutes. The thick walls could not hide the screams of those suffocating inside.

Then Sonderkommandos - other prisoners, usually Jews forced to work for the guards or be killed - would remove artificial limbs, glasses, hair and teeth before dragging the corpses to the incinerators. Ashes of the bodies were buried or used as fertiliser.

Belongings of those gassed and those sent to work were taken for sorting in a part of the camp known as "Canada" - so named because the country was seen as a land of plenty.

SS guards sought to hide their crimes as Soviet troops closed in, and tried to destroy their extensive prisoner records - making it hard to fully quantify the number of victims.

Academic studies since agree that in total close to 1.3 million people arrived at Auschwitz. About 1.1 million of them died there.

Jews from all across Nazi-controlled Europe made up the vast majority of the victims. Almost one million Jewish people were murdered at Auschwitz.

One specific example was Hungary's Jewish population. In the space of just two months, between May and July 1944, Hungary transported 420,000 of the 437,000 Jewish people it sent to Auschwitz.

Image source, Getty Images

Tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews were sent to Auschwitz every day. Three quarters of them were killed on arrival.

Some 75,000 Polish civilians, 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war, 25,000 Roma and Sinti, as well as Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals and political prisoners were also put to death by the German state at the Auschwitz complex.

What happened when Auschwitz was liberated?

German authorities ordered a halt to gassing and the destruction of the gas chambers and crematoria in late 1944, as Soviet troops advanced westward. The stockpile of stolen valuables in the Canada sector was shipped to Germany shortly afterwards.

Determined to erase the evidence of their crimes, the Nazis ordered 56,000 remaining prisoners to march west to other concentration camps, such as Bergen-Belsen, Dachau and Sachsenhausen. Those too sick to walk were left behind; any who fell behind on the march itself were killed.

Soviet forces found only a few thousand survivors when they entered the camp on 27 January 1945, along with hundreds of thousands of clothes and several tonnes of human hair. Soldiers later recalled having to convince some survivors that the Nazis had truly gone.

Elie Wiesel later said in a speech to mark the 50th anniversary of the liberation that the Nazi crimes at Auschwitz "produced a mutation on a cosmic scale, affecting man's dreams and endeavours".

"After Auschwitz, the human condition is no longer the same. After Auschwitz, nothing will ever be the same."

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Sours: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-50743973

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Chilling colourised pics capture Auschwitz horrors that revealed true evil of Hitler’s regime – 75years after liberation

CHILLING colourised photographs of prisoners at Auschwitz capture the true horrors of the Nazi's 75 years after the camp's liberation.

The harrowing images show skeletal Auschwitz inmates, discarded bodies and haunting images of belongings such as false teeth and glasses snatched on arrival from those arriving at the camp.

 Sadness and a skeletal frame - this was often all that was left of victims of the holocaust

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 Many of those killed at the camp were children, with 23,000 under the age of 18 being sent there between 1940 and 1945

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 Many were subjected to cruel beatings before finally being sent to the gas chambers to die

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The pictures shed harrowing light on the reality of the notorious camp - as Russain soldiers were horrified by what they found at the site when they got there.

In an attempt to cover up the shocking truth at Auschwitz, SS soldiers who knew that the enemy were fast approaching, blew up the gas chambers to hide the mass killings carried out there.

On January 1945, Heinrich Himmler, leader of the SS, ordered the evacuation of all camps including Auschwitz, telling commanders, "The Führer holds you personally responsible for... making sure that not a single prisoner from the concentration camps falls alive into the hands of the enemy."

On January 17, 58,000 prisoners were "death marched" out of the camp with many being shot or left to die along the way due to freezing cold weather conditions.

Russain soldiers arrived on January 27 to find the terrible scene, with bodies left on railway carriages, human remains and prisoners left behind starving to death.

 An emaciated 18-year-old Russian girl looks into the camera lens during the liberation of Dachau concentration camp in 1945. Dachau was the first German concentration camp, opened in 1933

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 More evocative shots show the first group of British men who went into the liberated camp

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 Young Jewish refugee, rescued from a concentration camp, resting up in a hospital bed in Malmo southern Sweden in 1945

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 Istvan Reiner, aged 4, smiles for a studio portrait, shortly before being murdered at Auschwitz concentration camp

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 Czeslawa Kwoka was just 14 when she was killed by Nazi doctors who gave her a fatal injection to the heart

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Auschwitz concentration camp was constructed in the suburbs of the Polish city Oświęcim, near the modern nation's southern border, in 1940.

Above the gates, like other Nazi death camps, was the famous motto "Arbeit macht frei" – "Work brings freedom".

I was sent to Auschwitz at 12 where my mother and seven siblings were gassed

1.1million Jews, Romani people, ethnic Poles, Soviet citizens, Soviet prisoners of war, political opponents, homosexuals and Jehovah's Witnesses were killed at the camp over five years, mostly using gas chambers before burning their bodies.

Inmates were first taken to the main camp, a former army barracks, in 1940, before the second extermination camp, Auschwitz Birkenau, was set up with a labour camp to staff a local chemical factory as well as several gas chambers to cope with the huge increase in prisoners.

 A 15-year-old Russian boy, Ivan Dudnik, who was brought to Auschwitz from his home by the nazis before being rescued

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 Russian soldiers view bodies of those left on train carriages. Most dead on arrival

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 Other black and white images show starving prisoners saved by Russian soldiers

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 An Incinerator In The Concentration Camp used to burn the bodies of those gas in chambers

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 German civilians are brought to see the atrocities committed in Auschwitz concentration camp so that the truth is known

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 A picture shows piles of clothes that belonged to people brought to Auschwitz

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 A handout photo made available by the Auschwitz Memorial and Museum shows piles of suitcases that belonged to people brought to Auschwitz for extermination

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 The sign above the gates of Auschwitz I reads 'Arbeit macht frei' – 'Work brings freedom'

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 Prisoners were kept in awful conditions, often not eating for days and having to fight through harsh winters without heating

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 Aushcwitz II-Birkenau main entrance, where prisoners arrived in heavily overcrowded trains

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Sours: https://www.the-sun.com/news/316293/chilling-colourised-pics-capture-auschwitz-horrors-that-exposed-hitlers-murderous-regime-to-the-world-75-years-ago/


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