AUSCHWITZ:  IMAGE NOTES

"PERIMETER WALL"

The concrete and barbed wire wall that enclosed portions of Auschwitz.

 

The wall not only served as a barrier to keep prisoners inside the camp, it blocked the public's view of prisoners' treatment.

 

"BRICK AND MORTAR FAÇADE OF

     NAZI OCCUPATION"

View toward the kitchen building, Auschwitz.

"STOLEN:  L. BERMANN'S LUGGAGE"

Deportees' belongings were taken from them at the time of their arrival.  

 

 

"PRISONER'S COAT"

Newly arrived prisoners clothes were confiscated.  In their place, they were given uniforms. 

 

Even when new, the uniforms were inadequate protection against southern Poland's summer rains or frigid winters.  

 

As the war progressed, articles of clothing given to newly arrived prisoners were increasingly worn, thread bare, and made up of parts.

 

These circumstances reflected the increasingly desperate circumstances in the camp as Germany's fortunes in the war deteriorated.

"WORN BY PRISONERS, WORN BY GUARDS,

     WORN BY VISITORS"

Steps, Prisoners' Block, Auschwitz.

Worn by prisoners and by guards, the steps in this photograph continue to be worn by visitors to the camp.  In the recent past, the number of visitors to the camp has increased to more than 1,500,000 per year.

"THE FRONT DOOR"

Front door, Block 10.

Block 10 was the main site of experiments to find simple and inexpensive ways to sterilize women.  The program's director, Dr. Claus Clauberg, was once one of Germany's most highly respected gynecologists.

Various methods were tried, including injection of caustic compounds into women's reproductive organs.  In addition, the reproductive organs of both men and women were subjected to high doses of radiation.

 

"FIRST FLOOR HALLWAY"

Block 10, like other prisoner blocks, has two floors.  

 

This photograph is of the first floor hallway and front door.  

 

Dr. Clauberg's office was located on the right side of the hallway.

 

The experiments were performed on the ground floor.  The female subjects, numbering in the hundreds, were housed in two large dormitory rooms located on the second floor.

"REMNANTS"

Remnants of the first floor lavatory, Block 10.

 

"VIEW THROUGH DR. CLAUBERG'S OFFICE SUITE"

Dr. Clauberg's office is the middle room in this photograph.

"LOOKING BACK"

Looking back through Dr. Clauberg's office suite.

 

"FIRST ROOM ON THE RIGHT"

First room on the right side of the hall as one enters Block 10.

 

One of the rooms used to perform sterilization experiments.

"RESIDUE OF THE PAST"

Room on the left side of the hall beyond Dr. Clauberg's office suite.

One of the rooms used to perform sterilization experiments.

 

"ALLEIN.  ICH BIN GANZ ALLEIN"

("ALONE.  I AM ALL ALONE")

Room on the right side of the hall as one enters Block 10.

The room's shuttered windows face the courtyard between Blocks 10 and 11.  

 

At the far end of the courtyard was the "Wall of Death", the site where prisoners condemned to death in Block 11 were executed.

 

This image suggests the isolation, vulnerability, and despair of the subjects of Dr. Clauberg's sterilization experiments.

 

"EMPTY OF BEDS AND BENCHES BUT NOT OF MEMORIES"

One of the two large dormitory rooms located on the second floor, Block 10.

During the time it was in use, the room was full of triple-decker bunk beds to accommodate the subjects of the sterilization experiments.

"THE WAY OUT"

This intersection is located between the "Appleplatz", the Roll Call Area, and the Main Gate.  All prisoners leaving or entering the camp through the Main Gate passed through this intersection.

 

 

"PRISON WITHIN A PRISON"

Prisoners who were considered to be part of the underground, had tried to escape, or had, in some way, committed an infraction against the authority of the camp were sent to Block 11.  

Prisoners sent to Block 11 were subject to harsh punishment, including torture and, in certain cases, being confined to basement cells without food or water.  In addition, there were four "standing cells" that were so narrow that prisoners could neither sit nor lie down.  

 

Few prisoners sent to Block 11 survived.

"NEXT?"

Prisoners' name tags were posted on a board in the first room on the right as one entered Block 11.


"LOCK UP"

Rows of cells lined the basement's exterior walls, Block 11.

 

"CELL"

Prisoners were kept in cells in the basement of Block 11.  Though most cells had window-like openings to the outside, some had small openings that made breathing difficult, if not impossible, if the cells were full of prisoners.  

 

Four cells, the "standing cells", were accessible only through a small opening at floor level.  Prisoners had to get on their hands and knees to pass through the opening before being able to stand in the cell.  Lying down or sitting in these cells was not possible.  This was an additional torture exacted on prisoners of particular interest to the authorities.

In addition to confinement, beatings, and other forms of torture, prisoners' were typically provided inadequate food or water or no food or water at all.  

 

 

"CONDEMNED"

Men's Washroom, first floor, Block 11.

 

Male prisoners condemned to death were ordered to remove their clothes in the men's washroom before being escorted to the courtyard between Blocks 10 and 11.

 

At the far end of the courtyard stood a wooden and concrete structure, the "Wall of Death".  Prisoners were escorted to the "Wall of Death" where they were then executed.

Female prisoners were similarly ordered to remove their clothes in the women's washroom before being escorted to the "Wall of Death" for execution.

"LAST STEPS"

After removing their clothes, prisoners were escorted through a short hall to a doorway in the side of Block 11.  The doorway opened to the courtyard between Blocks 10 and 11.  From the doorway, it was a short walk to the "Wall of Death".

"BROKEN AND BLOODY"

Detail of a stretcher used to carry prisoners to be executed, men's washroom, Block 11.

 

"MOMENT OF DEATH"

Hundreds of prisoners from Block 11 were murdered in the courtyard between Blocks 10 and 11.

 

Vague, dark, and blurred images were put together to suggest prisoners' moment of execution.


"BLOCK 20"

Front view of Block 20.

"LIGHT IN A DARK ROOM"

Room across the hall from the room in which prisoners were killed by injection of phenol into their hearts, Block 20.

The bodies of prisoners killed by injection of phenol were taken to this room where they remained until being removed for cremation.

 

"BLOCK 28"

Block 28 was used, in part, as a pharmacy and infirmary for prisoners.

Unlike the interiors of buildings that have been modified since the end of the war, the interior of Block 28 remains largely as it was at the end of the war.

 

"ATTIC"

View of a portion of the attic, Block 28.

 

"ARRIVAL"

Arrival at the plaza in front of the gas chamber marked the end of the journey for prisoners to be gassed.  

 

 

"GAS CHAMBER AND CREMATORIUM"

View of the plaza and building that housed the gas chamber and crematorium, Auschwitz.

The gas chamber was located on the right side of the building.  The crematorium was located on the left side of the building.

While standing on the plaza in front of the building, prisoners were ordered to remove their clothes.  They were then forced into the building where they entered a hallway before making a right turn into the anteroom to the gas chamber.

 

After only a few steps, they entered the gas chamber where they were murdered by inhalation of hydrogen cyanide gas.

 

"THRESHOLD"

Threshold of the main door of the building that housed the gas chamber and crematorium.

 

"INSIDE"

Having entered the building, prisoners passed from the central hallway into the anteroom to the gas chamber.  

 

"LAST LIGHT"

 

The last natural light that fell on prisoners' shoulders came through the window of the anteroom.

 

 

"PASSAGE"

From the central hallway, prisoners passed through a small anteroom into the gas chamber.

The vague and blurry images of the walls and ceiling of the anteroom suggest prisoners' disorientation, uncertainty, and terror as they moved through the anteroom to the gas chamber.

 

"TO STEP INTO THE GAS CHAMBER"

 

Prisoners passed into the gas chamber through this doorway.

 

 

"GIFT GAS!"

Used Zyklon B canisters.

Use of Zyklon B became the preferred method of murdering prisoners.

 

 

"PORTAL"

Zyklon B crystals were dropped from portals in the roof of the gas chamber by SS guards.  

 

Exposed to heat and humidity, Zyklon B crystals release hydrogen cyanide, a gas fatal to humans.  


"LAST STEPS"

The doorway from the anteroom to the gas chamber.  

The door in this photograph is not the door used during the time the chamber was used as a gas chamber.  

 

 

"GAS CHAMBER"

Prior to the war, the site that became Auschwitz I was a Polish army depot.  

 

As part of development of Auschwitz concentration camp, the depot''s storage facility was converted into a gas chamber and crematorium.

Here, thousands of prisoners were killed by inhalaton of hydrogen cyanide gas.  

After construction of other, larger gas chambers at Birkenau, the gas chamber was converted into an air raid shelter for use by camp staff.

 

"THE DEATH OF THOUSANDS"

 

Detail of one of the gas chamber walls.

In the over seventy years since the camp was liberated, the paint, wall coatings, and interior condition of the gas chamber have deteriorated.  The once clean line between the white walls and black border at their base is stained and broken.

 

The result is a collection of shapes, patterns, and intimations that, to me, suggest the chaos, cruelty, and inhumanity of a time not long ago.

 

"MURDERED", "MURDERED II", "MURDERED III"

Details of one of the gas chamber's walls.

 

"SCRATCHES"

Prisoners, desperate to escape their death, clawed and scratched at the walls and doors of the gas chamber.

In this case, their scratches were covered over at the time the gas chamber was converted to an air-raid shelter.

"OVEN DOOR"

One of the oven doors of the Auschwitz crematorium.

One result of Nazi race policy was the creation of factory-scale gas chambers and crematoria.

 

These facilities, in addition to round-ups, staging areas, ghettos, transportation systems, and concentration and extermination camps, were part of Hitler's ambition to exterminate European Jews.   This door was part of that effort.

 

Rather than a more presentational image of one of the crematorium's ovens, I chose to highlight the door's shape and clasp, physical manifestations of a society that had abandoned civility in pursuit of myth and expansionist ambition.  

 

In addition, I wanted to suggest the destructive force that had overcome one of Europe's most technologically and culturally sophisticated countries.  To me, the door is a metaphor for the dark end that comes to societies that abandon civil society, including the ideals of the Enlightenment.

"FINAL ASSAULT"

Chimney, Crematorium

Even when it was clear the Nazis would lose the war, they continued to round up and murder Jews.  

 

One of the most extraordinary efforts taken by the Nazis later in the war was to round up and transport Hungarian Jews to Birkenau.  

 

In the spring and early summer of l944, approximately 440,000 Hungarian Jews were transported to Birkenau where they were murdered shortly after their arrival.

 

 

"RESIDUE"

After the war, the gas chamber and the crematorium were sites of remembrance for those murdered during the war.  

 

At that time, many thousands of candles were burned in both chambers.  In addition to the residue from the cremation of bodies, this practice added to the black covering of the crematorium's walls and ceiling.

In the years since the camp became a property of the Polish government, efforts have been taken to protect the sites' buildings and surroundings.  Included among them are restrictions on the burning of candles in the crematorium.  

This photographs shows a portion of the ceiling of the crematorium where the black surface has peeled away.

Like the patterns on the walls of the gas chamber, these patterns suggest the terror, destruction, and unrest brought to European society by the Nazis.

"HÖSS' HOUSE"

Rudolf Höss, the longest serving commandant of Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration and Extermination Camp, lived in the house pictured in this photograph.

The house is located immediately adjacent to Auschwitz's prisoner blocks and administrative buildings.  

 

Once leaving his residence, home to his wife and young children, in was only a few steps until he transitioned to being the leader of the war's largest site of internment, torture, starvation, suffering, forced labor, and mass murder.

 

 

"IN REMEMBRANCE"

Rose placed on the plaza in front of the entrance to the building that housed the gas chamber and crematorium.