Scrapbookpages Blog

October 27, 2012

Photos taken by Wilhelm Brasse at Auschwitz, and some that were not taken by him

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 12:04 pm

Just when I thought that I was all blogged out, a reader of my blog made a comment that included three links to the news about the death of Wilhelm Brasse, the photographer at Auschwitz.  Two of the links (New York Times and Spiegel) showed the identification photos of a young Polish girl, which you can see below.

Here is the caption on the photo in the New York Times:

Prisoner identity photographs, taken by Wilhelm Brasse, of Czeslawa Kwoka of Poland. According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Czeslawa arrived with her family at Auschwitz on Dec. 13, 1942, and died on March 12, 1943. She was 14.

I actually remember seeing these photos of this young girl in the Museum exhibits in the Auschwitz main camp when I was there in 1998.

Why have these photos captured the attention of the world?  The photos of this young girl capture the essence of the misfortune of the Auschwitz prisoners.  This is a cute young girl, only 14 years old, but the first two photos show her as old and haggard, her hair shown, and her lips compressed in definance. In the third photo, the photographer has captured her youth and beauty with a jaunty scarf on her head and an upward adoring gaze.  The girl has been “humanized” by the photographer with the way that he posed her in the third photo.

The first photo shows that her head is pressed against a device to hold her head at the correct distance from the camera, so that the photographer did not have to re-focus the camera for each new prisoner.

The quality of the photos is excellent, indicating that a camera with a good portrait lens was being used, and that the photographer knew how to develop and print black and white photos, which is now a lost art.

The third link given by a reader of my blog was to the Wikipedia entry for Wilhelm Brasse.

Wilhelm Brasse holds a photo which he allegedly took at Auschwitz

The photo above is shown on the Wikipedia page for Wilhelm Brasse with this caption:

Brasse in 2005 with one of his Auschwitz photographs

Oops! The photo that Brasse is holding is NOT one of the photos that he took. It is a still shot from a film taken by the Soviet liberators of Auschwitz.  The Soviets filmed these prisoners because, according to the Soviets, these were Jews who had been experimented on by Dr. Josef Mengele.  Wilhelm Brasse could not have taken the film which included this still shot because he had been death marched out of the Auschwitz camp on January 18, 1945 before the Soviets arrived on January 27, 1945 to liberate the camp.

So why did Brasse pose with this still photo?  Did his memory fail him and he couldn’t remember which photos that he took?  Or was he persuaded to pose with a photo that he knew was NOT  one of the photos that he had taken?

I previous blogged about the photo that Brasse is holding here.  Don’t bother trying to change the Wikipedia entry; the lie about this photo is so firmly entrenched into Holocaust history that it is one of those famous “events that never happened, but are true.”

The photo actually shows Gypsy children who are suffering from the disease called “Noma.”  When the Gypsy camp was closed, all the Gypsies were sent to the gas chamber, except for these children who had Noma, who were left behind for some unknown reason.  I previously blogged about the gassing of the Gypsies here and here.

The news articles about the death of Wilhelm Brasse mention that he did not take photos of the prisoners who were immediately gassed upon arrival at Auschwitz.  That is correct: the prisoners who were gassed immediately were not registered in the Auschwitz camp, so no identification photos were taken of them.  That is why the names of the prisoners who were immediately gassed are completely unknown; also the number of Jews who were immediately gassed is completely unknown.  The Nazis were no fools; they had the good sense not to leave behind records of the Jews who were gassed.

This quote is from Wikipedia about Wilhelm Brasse:

Dr. Mengele had insisted that Brasse take the “identity” portraits of Auschwitz prisoners “in three poses: from the front and from each side.”[4] After taking hundreds of thousands of such photographs, Brasse and others disobeyed later Nazi orders to destroy them,[4] yet only some of his photos have survived….

Personally, I don’t believe that Dr. Mengele had anything to do with the “identity” portraits.  The taking of the identity portraits in the main camp started long before Dr. Mengele arrived at the Birkenau camp to be the doctor assigned to take care of the Gypsy family camp.


The ruins at Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1979, compared to today

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 1:28 am

An article in the online Telegraph, which you can read here, includes a photo that allegedly shows the ruins of one of the gas chambers at Auschwitz II, aka Birkenau.  It is an old black and white photo, taken in 1979.  I enhanced the photo, using Photoshop and reproduced it below.

Here is the caption on the photo, copied from the Telegraph:

FILE – In this undated file photo from 1979, a former inmate of the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau, Poland sometime in 1979, gazes down at ruins of gas chambers where hundreds of people were exterminated during World War II. The oldest known survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp, a teacher who gave lessons in defiance of his native Poland’s Nazi occupiers has died at the age of 108, an official said Monday, Oct. 22, 2012. Antoni Dobrowolski died Sunday in the northwestern Polish town of Debno, according to Jaroslaw Mensfelt, a spokesman at the Auschwitz-Birkenau state museum.

1979 photo of an Auschwitz survivor viewing the ruins at Auschwitz-Birkenau

My 2005 photo of the ruins of the undressing room in Krema II

In the color photo above, note the steps of the International Monument on the right hand side. Note the guard tower in the background on the right.  My 2005 photo matches the 1979 black and white photo above, indicating that the man is not looking at the ruins of a gas chamber, but at the ruins of the undressing room of Krema II.

Another 2005 photo of the undressing room of Krema II

Again, note the guard tower and the steps of the International Monument on the right in the photo above. In the foreground, you can some of the ruins of the oven room, which was at ground level.  The undressing room was 5 feet underground.

The ruins of the Krema II gas chamber

My 2005 photo of the ruins of the Krema II gas chamber shows the International Monument in the background, slightly to the left.

Now look at the old black and white photo again.  It appears that some reconstruction of the ruins was done between 1979 and 2005.  Also, look at the background of the photo.  It looks like wide open countryside, with no trees hiding the view of the Jews walking into the undressing room.  Shouldn’t there have been a fence or a row of trees to hide the “mass murder” that was going on in the camp?

My 2005 photo of the ruins of the undressing room in Krema II

My 2005 photo above shows that the undressing room has been reconstructed, and a row of trees has been planted to hide the prisoners entering the undressing room from onlookers outside the camp.  The path, that the prisoners walked, up to the undressing room entrance should also have been reconstructed.

I am not convinced that there was an entrance to the undressing room in this location. A model of Krema II and the blueprint for the Krema II building are shown below.

Model of Krema II gas chamber building

In the photo above, notice that there is a door into the gas chamber building shown on the wall of the building on the left side. There was an exterior entrance with a staircase on the north side of the Krema II building, which led to the Vorraum of Krema II so that the SS men could enter Leichenkeller 1, the gas chamber, without going through Leichenkeller 2, which was the undressing room. In case of emergency, the gas chamber could be used as a bomb shelter for the SS men working in the area, since it had a gas-tight air raid shelter door.

Blueprint of the Krema II building

On the blueprint shown in the photo above, the undressing room is on the right hand side. To the left of the undressing room is the above-ground oven room with the ovens designated by 5 squares. There were 5 ovens with 3 openings in each oven. The gas chamber was perpendicular to the undressing room. On the blueprint, the gas chamber is labeled L-keller which is an abbreviation for Leichenkeller, which means corpse cellar in English. The undressing room was also called a Leichenkeller on the blueprint. Note that the length of the undressing room is two or three times as long as the length of the gas chamber.

Now that we see that there was a way to get into the undressing room without going around the building to enter from the end of the room, why didn’t the prisoners enter the undressing room through the door into the Vorraum?

Was the undressing room reconstructed to show an entrance down some steps that weren’t actually there before the reconstruction?

Update, 5:22 p.m.

A reader has alerted me to the website of The Daily Mail which shows a photo of Wilhelm Brasse standing beside the ruins of the undressing room in Krema II at Auschwitz in 1979.  In The Daily Mail photo, it looks like there are steps at the far end of the undressing room.  However, when I converted the photo to 300 dpi, from the 63 dpi in the original, it looks more like a brick wall.  I did not enhance the photo in any way.

High resolution photo of the ruins of the undressing room (Click on the photo to enlarge)

The photographer who took this photo in 1979 focused on Brasse in the foreground of the picture. The background, which shows the end of the undressing room, is not in sharp focus, so it is hard to tell if there are really steps in the photo.