The famous photo above was taken at the Buchenwald concentration camp, inside Block #56, by Private H. Miller of the Civil Affairs Branch of the U. S. Army Signal Corps on April 16, 1945, five days after the camp was liberated by the Sixth Armored Division of the US Third Army on April 11, 1945. The photo was published by the New York Times on May 6, 1945 with the caption “Crowded Bunks in the Prison Camp at Buchenwald.”
Block #56 was one of the barracks in the “Small Camp” at Buchenwald. The “Small Camp” was a quarantine camp for prisoners who had recently arrived from other camps that had been evacuated.
Paul (Pawel) Argiewicz is the man whose face is shown in the circle in the photo above. Like Elie Wiesel, who is also in this famous photo, Paul was a Jewish teenager who was evacuated from Auschwitz-Birkenau on a “death march” on January 18, 1945 and then sent by train to the Buchenwald camp; both were orphans in the Buchenwald “Small Camp.”
Paul Argiewicz was not quite 15 years old when the photo above was taken; he had been a prisoner in the Nazi concentration camps for 5 years. Elie Wiesel was 16 and 1/2 when the photo was taken. Elie’s face is shown in the red circle in the photo below.
Argiewicz had lied about his age during the selection for the gas chamber at Birkenau, claiming that he was 18 years old and experienced as an electrician so that he would be selected for work, when he was actually only 11 years old and was destined to die in the gas chamber. Argiewicz says that he had an advantage because he could speak fluent German since his mother was from Bavaria, a state in Germany.
The photo below shows Pawel Argiewicz as he looked in 1946 when his picture was taken for a German driver’s license.
The two photos above show that Paul Argiewicz has not changed much in appearance since he got a driver’s license in 1946. There is a clear resemblance in the faces in the two photos. However, the man in these two photos looks nothing like the man in the photo taken in Block #56 at Buchenwald.
There are three men from the Netherlands in the famous photo at the top of this page: Simon Toncman, Helman Leefsma, and Max Hamburger. All three had been sent to Buchenwald after they had been captured while fighting with the French resistance. Simon Toncman is the skinny guy who is standing up. Strangely, he never talked about this photo til the day he died, according to the photo caption on Flickr.
There are three men from Hungary in the photo: Elie Wiesel, Nikolaus (Miklos) Grüner, and Mel Mermelstein. All three of these men have been involved in some controversy.
I find all of this to be very strange, and a bit suspicious. Wiesel, Argiewicz and Grüner were all teen-aged orphans, but they are in a barrack with adult Resistance fighters from the Netherlands. Grüner says he had tuberculosis when the photo was taken, but he is in a barrack with Argiewicz who doesn’t look the least bit sick in the photo. Wiesel looks like a man of 40 in the photo; he says that he became sick three days after the camp was liberated, and he was hospitalized during the time this photo was taken. Was Block 56 a hospital barrack? Would Elie Wiesel, who became sick from eating too much rich food given to him by the American liberators, have been put into a hospital barrack with a TB patient?
Why didn’t Simon Toncman ever talk about being in the most famous Holocaust photo of all time? Was he ashamed that he had posed naked with nothing but a striped shirt hiding the lower half of his body? Notice that Toncman and several men in the photo have nicely trimmed beards, but the others are clean shaven.
Now look at the man in the center of the photo below. Is this Simon Toncman posing with a group of Communist prisoners at Buchenwald?
The photo of the Communist prisoners at Buchenwald was taken on April 15, 1945 by Margaret Bourke White. This was a group of privileged prisoners who actually ran the Buchenwald camp, according to the Buchenwald report.
The Buchenwald Museum web site has this to say about the Little Camp at Buchenwald, where Barrack #56 was located:
“When the inmates from Auschwitz, Gross-Rosen and other evacuated camps in the east were deported to Buchenwald at the end of 1944, the Little Camp became the “hell of Buchenwald”. With a population of far more than 10,000, it became a place of dying and death where the SS took the people they no longer had any use for in their subcamps. For example, thousands of sick and disabled inmates were brought to the Little Camp from Ohrdruf Subcamp. The so-called “Muselmann” became a symbol of the complete debilitation and immiseration of many inmates which led to their giving up all hope of survival. Corpses piled up in front of the barracks; some of the desperate prisoners even took to eating them. From the beginning of 1945 to the day of liberation, more than 5,000 died in this hell on earth.”
Regarding the orphans at Buchenwald, the Buchenwald Museum web site says:
“In January 1945, political inmates succeeded in convincing the SS to set up a kind of shelter, Barrack 66 in the Little Camp. There the children were protected from the hell of Buchenwald, they were not assigned to any labour detachments and they received somewhat more nourishing rations. Nearly 900 children and adolescents thus survived in this barrack, among them the later Nobel Prize laureate Elie Wiesel as well as Robert Büchler, who would go on to research the history of their experiences.”
So it is very clear that the Buchenwald Museum is saying that Elie Wiesel was in Barrack 66 and not in Barrack 56. So what is Elie doing in Barrack 56, which is shown in the photo at the top of this page? For that matter, what are teenagers Paul Argiewicz and Nikolaus Grüner doing in Barrack 56?