I recently visited the beautiful city of Krakow in Poland with my wife, mother inlaw and father inlaw . The opportunity was there to visit the Nazi death camp Auschwitz and although I was reluctant to visit such an evil place I felt drawn with the sole purpose to experience the space and hopefully gain a further understanding of what happened there nearly 70 years ago . My father inlaw Ian and myself made the trip . I wanted to create a set of photographs that evoke a sense of dread and hopelessness and ultimately force the viewer to ‘look and think’ .
Auschwitz 1 and Auschwitz 2 Birkenau was created with the sole purpose of genocide . . . to annihilate the Jewish race but it was not just Jews who were killed here, the Nazis also used the camps to gas Russian POWS, gypsies, and homosexuals . In total over 1.5 million people were sent here from all over Europe and murdered in the gas chambers .
I’m really glad that I took the time to visit this place as I learned and saw things that made me gasp with astonishment! I have not been able to sleep since but I suppose that is down to me being thoughtful about the images I wanted to present in this post.
I will never forget my visit and I will never forget the innocent people who lost their lives there .
The image below shows the main gate entrance to Auschwitz 1 displaying the sign “Arbeit Macht Frei” . . . In German this means “work makes you free” . This was designed to give the Jews false hope that they may make it our alive . In fact, work only prolonged their suffering as they were eventually sent to the gas chamber when they became too weak to work .Zyklone B . . . the pesticide used to gas the victims .Masses upon masses of human hairThe Nazis would constantly play mind games with the Jews . The image below shows the suitcases of the victims and the SS would tell the Jews to write their names and addresses on the cases so that ‘they would know which was theirs when they finally leave the camp’ . Again, it was all done to give the Jews false hope. I find this image particularly upsetting as the case in the lower left of the image is painted with the word ‘kind’, meaning child.Shoes that once belonged to childrenThe court yard next to block 11 . In the distance you can see the shooting wall used to execute Russian POWsThe notorious block 11 . This is were the nazis brought what they called ‘serious offenders to the regime’ for torture and execution . The basement in this block was also used to conduct medical experiments on women and children by nazi doctors. SS guard sleeping quartersStairs leading to the basement of block 11The gallowsThe gallows were Rudolf Hoes, the commandent of Auschwitz was hung after the liberation of the campThe chimney to the crematorium at Auschwitz 1Inside the gas chamber at Auschwitz 1The entrance to Auschwitz 2, Birkenau . It was through this single opening and single railway line that over a million people were transported to the gas chambers Over 100 people were crammed into these carts with no windows . Some Jews were transported from places as far away as Greece which could take up to 7 days! The carts remained shut and they were given no food and no water . Many people lost their lives even before they got to AuschwitzThe ruins of the gas chambers at BirkenauThe toilet block for women and childrenSleeping quarters for women and childrenEngravings on the wall made by the victims