Scrapbookpages Blog

March 25, 2010

Famous photo of Buchenwald survivors – revisited

Barrack #56 at Buchenwald concentration camp

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.”

To see the photo above in high resolution, click here.  To see the names of prisoners in the photo who have identified themselves, click here.

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.

The face of Paul Argiewicz is in the circle

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.

The face of Elie Wiesel is shown inside the red circle

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.

Copy of German driver's license for Paul Argiewicz

Paul Argiewicz in a photo taken March 2009

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?

Photo of Communist prisoners at Buchenwald

Closeup of Simon Toncman

Closeup of Communist prisoner

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?


  1. It is obvious that my uncle Paul Argiewicz is not the person indicated in the photo. It looks nothing like him, and is in fact proved not to be him in his own memoir book photo on the opposite page where a drivers license photo one year later does not resemble this face at all. In particular, he did not have eyebrows that curved so far around his eyes.

    The assertion that he is present in this photo was nonexistent until 2008, the year his memoir book was published. Since his ghost written book gets so very many facts and stories wrong, as the website associated with book sales also does, and stains a courageous man of integrity who is greatly missed because he is no longer with us, it appears that the false assertion is associated with the factually compromised book.

    I have also seen a photo where it is the man one bunk lower, and to the left, a sleeping man facing away from the camera, who is indicated as my uncle with a vertical arrow.

    I don’t know what it is with this photo. The individual indicated as Mr. Wiesel appears to have a receding hairline although a published image of him at age 15 prior to deportation does not have such a hairline. I believe that neither he or my uncle appear in the photo, and it appears to me that at least in the case of my uncle, that it was someone else pushing for him to be present.

    My uncle was a wonderful, warm, caring, courageous, person who inspired so many with his exceptional love of life and people… but he isn’t in this photograph.

    RIP, uncle. Your love lives on.

    Comment by Murray Matzner — April 3, 2015 @ 1:03 pm

  2. This photo is a fake. The figure on the right has been photoshopped into the picture to cover up the empty bunks to the right.

    Comment by Bill — October 16, 2014 @ 6:41 am

    • You are correct. The man on the right was not in the original photo. However, there was no PhotoShop back in those days. This magic was accomplished in the darkroom.

      Comment by furtherglory — October 16, 2014 @ 9:09 am

  3. This is very scary. It is a shame as to what all of these people had to go through. I really can’t believe tat they made it that far as to what they did.

    Comment by Heather Nicole — May 12, 2011 @ 2:36 pm

  4. אבי heinrich michai היה במחנה עבודה והוגלה למחנה ריכוז בבוכנוולד. השתתף בצעדת המוות ושרד כי היה שען. היו לו מכשירים בכיס ועקב כך לא ירו בו ודחפו אותו תמיד לראש התור. במעבר דרך כפרגרמני עלה עם חבר לאסם והתחבו מתחת לקש. נרדמו והאכר אשר לא הלשין עליהם העירם למחרת כאשר האמריקאים באו לשחרר את בוכנוולד.אושפז בבית חולים אמריקאי בגלל טיפוס. לאחר החלמתו התחבר עם החיילים האמריקאים עליהם התחבב כל כך שרצו לקחתו לארה”ב. אך אשתו היינריך איזבט לימים אימי, שוחררה מאושוויץ ע”י הרוסים.כך נולדתי אני ועלינו לישראל מרומניה טרנסילבניה.מי שניצל מתופת זה ויודע עליו נא ליצור קשר

    Comment by ד"ר היינריך אבי — February 21, 2011 @ 11:42 am

  5. My uncle was one of the soldiers who had the awful experience of seeing the horrors of the concentration camps after they were liberated.
    Holocaust denial is only beginning to really take ground because the eyewitnesses are dying off.
    The full implications of what happened in the holocaust must be faced, not denied.
    The reasons it happened, the sickness of mind that drives people to single out a people group and decide that they are no longer human, needs to be understood and seen for the evil that it is.
    Even if you can somehow show that isolated photographs and certain names or even locations are not quite correct in there detail, it is absolutely no reason for trying to establish a case for saying that the overwhelming mass of eyewitness accounts and day to day administration and military documentation, is false.
    Holocaust denial should be recognized as a crime because it ultimately connects to the kind of ideology that made the holocaust possible in the first place.

    Comment by whitbyjblog — November 3, 2010 @ 5:33 am

  6. The picture of the Prisoners of buchenwald could possibly be my father, Elisha Franklin Nunley. If it is not him, then he is my fathers twin. If you need more information or pictures, please let me know. He is the may in the suit with a cane in his hand. Thank You, L.R. Nunley, box 459, Ruidoso, NM 88355, 575-973-0688

    Comment by lonnie r nunley — June 30, 2010 @ 3:45 pm

  7. Very interesting. Thank you for this excellent research! But I think you have some answers to the questions you pose, but you don’t want to say them.

    First, we know that is NOT Elie Wiesel in the picture of Barracks 66; nor is Paul Argiewizc in that picture. He is NOT the person on the driver’s license. The only one who IS there is Myklos Gruener, and he looks like he has TB.

    Obviously, the Army Signal Corps arranged a bunch of prisoners (who knows what their selection process was?) to try to show an overcrowded barracks with starving men in it. These were not all men who actually lived in Barracks 66. The photo is a fake as far as representing what it is said to represent. This is nothing new for the U.S. Military; they were busy making propaganda photos about Buchenwald, Dachau, etc. to “sell” their case against Germany, so they could get away with occupying and totally controlling the German nation/people, even until today!

    There has never been a peace treaty for Germany, and therefore Austria either. Germany is still occupied by U.S. Military forces and all governments of Germany have had to accept that.

    Comment by sceptic — March 25, 2010 @ 8:00 pm

    • The photo was taken in Barracks 56, not Barracks 66, which was the orphans barracks. There is no proof that Myklos Grüner is in the photo. He was only 16, so he should have been in the orphans barracks. The identification of the prisoners in the photo was made years later by the prisoners themselves. The photographer did not take down the names of the prisoners at the time that he took the photo.

      Comment by furtherglory — March 25, 2010 @ 11:16 pm

      • Thanks for straightening out my number mix-up. I had thought to ask — How do we know that is Gruener in the photo? — but thought maybe there was some confirmation of it. Are there photos in his book that show what he looks like? If he looks nothing like that boy, then Buchenwald Memorial/Museum is certainly participating in a fraud — their “historical account” is worthless propaganda. They accept the word of liars as the truth if it fits their storyline as “a place of horror” and “a hell on earth.”

        Are people aware that Buchenwald, like Dachau and the others, are operated by organizations that are at least dominated, if not totally controlled, by Jews — who have an interest in propagating the official, “Nuremberg-style” story-line, rather than the true history.
        If you have discovered and transmitted this information to us, what is wrong with them?? They have a great deal of money and resources at their disposal.

        Can you comment on this, please.

        Comment by sceptic — March 26, 2010 @ 7:21 am

        • I have not read, nor seen, the book by Grüner, so I don’t know what he looks like.

          The Memorial Sites and Museums at both Dachau and Buchenwald are still controlled by a committee of former prisoners. These committees are made up of Communists and Social Democrats who were imprisoned because they were Resistance fighters or illegal combatants during World War II. The committees were organized while the camps were still in existence, and they basically ruled the camps. Buchenwald was actually liberated by the Communist prisoners before the American liberators arrived.

          The staff at Buchenwald and Dachau will tell you the truth about most questions, if you ask, but they have no control over what is in the Museums or what is told by the tour guides. Between 1965 and 2003, the Museum at Dachau said that the gas chamber was never used. In 2003, the Committee of Dachau, which is based in Belgium, ordered them to say that the gas chamber was used a few times. It is not the Jews, but rather the Communists who control the Memorial Sites and Museums in Germany and Austria.

          Comment by furtherglory — March 26, 2010 @ 7:56 am

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