I have just learned from a news article in the Irish times, that there is a photo on display at Auschwitz-Birkenau which shows naked women being driven toward the Krema V gas chamber. A lot has changed at Auschwitz since I was there in 2005 and I don’t think that this photo was there in 2005.
This quote is from the article in the Irish Times:
On a day like this, the woods outside the camp look like a nice place for a picnic. That is until you remember that in the summer of 1944, the Birkenau section of the camp was gassing an average of 8,000 Jews each day. Thousands of newly arrived men, women and children would have sat around in these woods for hours, unaware of what lay ahead in the gas chambers. [...]
Even for those of us who are familiar with the pictures of Auschwitz, there are still some shocking new images. In particular, there is the blurred picture of a number of naked women being driven like sheep into a pen.
Except that the pen was a gas chamber. That picture was taken at great risk by one of the “worker” prisoners in Auschwitz and somehow smuggled out of the camp.
The photo below, which I found by doing a web search, has the caption: Naked Jewish women being driven towards Gas Chamber V-Auschwitz ll Birkenau.
There are numerous photos of prisoners waiting for their turn in the gas chambers in Krema IV and Krema V, which the SS men took themselves, and put into a photo album, called the Auschwitz Album. The photo below, from the Auschwitz Album, shows an elderly woman who is trying to escape; the building in the background appears to be Krema IV or Krema V, which were identical in design.
All the photos below are from the Auschwitz Album; they show Jewish prisoners at Auschwitz-Birkenau waiting for the gas chamber.
In the photo immediately above, you can see, in the upper right hand corner, what looks like the gate into the section where Krema IV, Krema V and the Sauna are located. The Sauna, where incoming prisoners took a shower, was located across the road from Krema IV.
The photo, that is displayed at the ruins of the Krema V gas chamber, presents a problem. With 8,000 prisoners being gassed each day, and thousands of Jews waiting in the birch tree grove at the western end of the Birkenau camp, there would have been pandemonium if a group of naked women had been driven into Krema V, after being told that they would be given a shower. Thousands of other prisoners would have witnessed this and there would have been chaos as they scattered in all directions, trying to escape.
What about the prisoners who had been selected for work? They would have been marching to the Sauna, across the road from the gas chambers, and a panic would have ensued. The plan was to have some of the prisoners take a shower before going to the barracks where they would live while they worked, while those who were too young or too old to work would be immediately killed. The plan had to be kept secret until the very last minute to prevent a mass escape attempt.
Besides that, the naked women in the photo look like candidates for labor, not the gas chamber. So what does this photo really show?