Auschwitz Photo Journalism

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I’ve visited Auschwitz on 3 occasions. Twice during winter (January 2007 and January 2009) and once during the Polish Summer in May 2011.

The first time I went there, it was really just before the place started to become ultra popular as an international tourism location. It was still a place people visited purely to go to a historical memorial and be moved or educated for the history. I started to notice in 2009 that as visitor-ship had increased, there were more signs, a few more safety fences, and more sings of modern tourism. In 2007 I was one of few people wandering around taking it in, and seeing the unaffected ruins. I was there to be moved and see WW2 history, access it and take in the sheer gravity of what happened there.

I remember climbing the Birkenau guard tower, by myself. I stood at the top, alone, looking at an almost empty camp. (The tower at the main gate)

Auschwitz Birkenau Main Gate and Guard Tower – Taken in 2011

In 2009 I saw school groups with kids being stupid and doing Nazi salutes, climbing on buildings and disrespecting the place.

In 2011, you needed a tour guide to climb the guard tower.

I’m sharing these images to show what I saw. I want to visually preserve the place as I remember in 2011.

From what I understand, there are now airport-style security measures when you enter & you can only bring in a small handbag. Probably wise considering the current political climate.

Barracks at Birkenau

Auschwitz History

There are lots of good sources for Auschwitz and Holocaust history. As a quick run down, Auschwitz started as a Polish Army Barracks on the banks of the river Sola.

In the centre was a horse breaking yard. When Poland was invaded by the Nazis in 1939 Auschwitz 1 was taken over by SS Commandant Rudolf Hoess with a view of turning it into a labour camp for Political Prisoners. He developed the first of the Gas Chambers (converting a munitions dump) and ran the camp as he saw it, as a cog in the wider Nazi Machine hell bend on world dominance. Indeed, Heinrich Himmler’s view for the area was to turn it into a capitol in the east for the German Reich.

Auschwitz 1 Aerial: The white building in the centre bottom was the original Polish barracks. The Nazi’s added everything else.
  • Konzentrationslager (KL) Auschwitz or the Auschwitz concentration camp was established bnear Oświęcim, renamed Auschwitz after its incorporation into the Third Reich, and providing the name for the camp.
  • Initially there was one camp, Auschwitz I, established in June 1940
    • The Auschwitz I camp housed mainly the central employment office, the political department or the camp Gestapo, the garrison administration, central supply warehouses, workshops and SS enterprises – most of the camp prisoners were employed there

By 1942, Hoess received orders to expand the camp into Auschwitz II Birkenau (the famous guard tower and selection ramp) to start accepting Jews to be exterminated and for slave labour. Further expansion projects to Auschwitz III Monowitz were undertaken to supply slave labour to Interessen‐Gemeinschaft Farbenindustrie AG, commonly known as IG Farben, was a German chemical and pharmaceutical conglomerate. 

Minimal Edits

There are a lot of photos of Auschwitz and similar where photographers tend to post edit their images either with a high dynamic range or strange spooky tone. Thats not me. I’ve edited these images for clarity and colour, to make it easy to take in what I saw.

Video Footage on my
YouTube Channel

Auschwitz 1

Auschwitz 1 Gas Chamber

The Auschwitz 1 Gas Chamber was demolished by the Nazis but rebuilt by the Russians after liberation.

Something that creeps mew out about the Auschwitz 1 Gas Chamber was the the Commandant, Rudolf Hoess, lived in his house with his family next to it. Just on the other side of the fence. Granted, there was the camp Gestapo building between it and his house, but it is eerily close. He would have smelt the stench. Seen the smoke.

Rudolf Hoess was hanged in April 1947 on the site the the Gestapo Building, next to his house and the Gas Chamber.

At his trial, it was put to him that he murdered 2 million people at Auschwitz. He retorted that is was 1 million, and the others simply died of starvation. Starvation he caused.

Wiping out culture

It’s an interesting point. The Nazi’s didn’t just want to destroy a race of people. They only wanted their culture to exist. Hence they renamed the town of Oswiecim to Auschwitz and Brzezinka to Birkenau.

Aischwitz II – Birkenau

  • In March 1942 a subsidiary of the Auschwitz camp was established – Birkenau named after the village Brzezinka.
    • Served 2 purposes:
      • Extermination of the Jews. The largest mass murder installations in occupied Europe – in the form of gas chambers – were created in Birkenau, where the Nazis murdered most of the Jewish deportees.
      • A concentration site and labor distribution point for the German industry in the depths of the Third Reich. 
  • In October 1942  Monowitz, an Auschwitz sub-camp was established named after the village of Monowice where it was located
    There were nearly 50 sub camps for Auschwtiz.

Just Following Orders? No

I don’t buy it when I hear that SS guards were just following orders. The SS Guards took advantage of their situation.

It was, for them, a cushy job. They stole money and other valuables from defenceless prisoners coming in, they assaulted and raped, and used prisoners for their own ends. Just lookup Josef Mengele, the Nazi doctor who took advantage of a source of twins for grotesque medical experimentation.

The Nazi Guards at Auschwitz were not following orders – they used their initiative to take advantage of the situation they were in.

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Auschwitz Photo Journalism