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.



  1. Both of my parents were in that consatration camp, My father spent 6 years there and my mother was there for 3 and a half years, she told us stories of how awful the conditions were, eating only small scraps of old food like potato peels and other garbage, my father took some photos when the Americans came and rescued him, my mother was the only one that made it out alive out of 28 women that were 3 stories underground where they worked on some very big machines, i sill have those photos, but they are too graffic to show on this or any other site…Thaddeus Bukowski

    Comment by Thaddeus Bukowski — May 30, 2013 @ 2:14 pm

    • Your father must have been sent to the Auschwitz main camp in 1939. Was he a political prisoner? Were both of your parents sent to Auschwitz because they were arrested as Resistance fighters?

      The photos that your father took must have been taken at Dachau, Buchenwald or Mauthausen and its sub-camps where the prisoners were taken when they were marched out of Auschwitz. Was your father forced to march out of Auschwitz, or was he given a chance to stay in the camp until the Soviet soldiers arrived?

      Were the factories that were 3 stories underground at Auschwitz or at some other camp or sub-camp? I didn’t know that women prisoners worked in underground factories.

      Comment by furtherglory — May 31, 2013 @ 7:33 am

  2. What do any of you make of the young girl in the 4th portrait/ID pictures, prisoner ID # 22193. I have been truly haunted by her, by her eyes, since reading this article. I have tried to do research using her Auschwitz inmate number, but with very little success. I was able to gather she may have come from Belgium. I don’t know why this is so important to me. I’ve see hundreds of photos from the Holocaust, but she has moved me even more than any others. Does anyone have anything to gleam from her picture? Guess on her age? Hertiage? Is there a difference in head scarves?

    Thanks all!

    Comment by Sandy W. — November 1, 2012 @ 10:22 am

    • I looked at the photo of Prisoner 22193. Except for the clothes that she is wearing, the girl in the photo looks like a boy to me. She looks Dutch to me. She was sent to the Auschwitz main camp as a “political prisoner” which means that she was captured while fighting as a Resistance fighter. There were Resistance fighters in many countries, including Belgium, France and Holland.

      Of course, those mean ole Nazis should have allowed Resistance fighters to fight as illegal combatants after their countries had surrendered. Instead they were put into concentration camps. In America, we put potential German-American illegal combatants into camps immediately before they could do any damage, AND KEPT THEM THERE UNTIL TWO YEARS AFTER THE WAR.

      Comment by furtherglory — November 1, 2012 @ 11:33 am

      • Thank you, furtherglory. I too thought she was a boy initially and Dutch. It’s crazy how the photo has moved me. All that I know of the nighmares these poor souls suffered, I am continually shocked by the inhumanity. But again, this young woman, and it must be the terror in her eyes, that has moved me to the point of being haunted by the image. Thank you for your input.

        Comment by Sandy W. — November 3, 2012 @ 5:54 pm

        • BTW, I felt bad making a comment to the effect that this young lady looked like a boy to me initally. I can only imagine a lot of us women we look similar had we been in the same situation.

          Comment by Sandy W. — November 5, 2012 @ 4:30 am

          • I was finally, after much searching and contacting several agencies around the world, was able to determine this young woman’s name. Her name was Helena Myszak and was a Polish political prisoner. She was sent to Auschwitz on 7 Oct 1942 from Lublin district in Poland and she passed away 15 Feb 1943 at Auschwitz.

            Comment by Sandy W. — November 27, 2012 @ 3:27 pm

  3. Today’s Daily Mail has an informative obituary of Wilhelm Brasse; I was shocked to discover that the Reich was obsessed with bureaucratic records and setup ‘Erkennungsdienst,’ the photographic identification unit.

    Those Nazis were such evil; can you imagine any other enforcement agency engaging in senseless and humiliating acts or taking pictures of criminals?

    And when the SS was looking for photographers, the assembled men were tested on their photographic skills, a bizarre and terrifying experience .


    Hard to believe there was once a time when men were hired solely based on their talents.

    Later, I was horrified to read the blood-freezing accounts of German interrogation, thankfully balanced by the chivalrous behavior of the flawless Allies.

    Comment by Eager For Answers — October 29, 2012 @ 1:18 am

  4. The uniform appears to be way too big for her. Why would child prisoners be issued uniforms if they were to be gassed immediately. Why even photographed? I’ve read where Soviet photographers with the Red Army liberators dressed the children they found up in adult’s uniforms for group gruelpropaganda photos. The striped uniforms in some of those photos look oversized too.

    Comment by who dares wings — October 27, 2012 @ 3:23 pm

    • The girl in the photos, taken by Brasse, is not Jewish, so she was not going to be gassed immediately. Only the Jews were gassed. Non-Jews, who were executed, were shot or killed by some other means of execution. When the striped uniforms were given out, they were just handed out at random; the prisoners then had to trade uniforms until everyone had the right size. This girl was photographed before she had a chance to trade with another girl for a uniform that fit.

      It is true that the Soviet liberators put adult uniforms on the children, so that they could take photos. According to the survivors, there were no child size uniforms because the children did not wear uniforms. Some of the women at Auschwitz did not wear uniforms because there were not enough uniforms for them. I learned this from reading books written by the survivors.

      Comment by furtherglory — October 27, 2012 @ 5:56 pm

  5. Jewish and Romany features are distinctive.. Could someone please verify that this Girl is not either for she certainly does not look Romany(Indian) or Jewish..

    Comment by owainglyndwr1416 — October 27, 2012 @ 2:10 pm

  6. A 14 year old girl being registered; surely she would have been led away to the gas chamber on arrival? Was Dr Mengele having a day off?
    Interestingly your last sentence’ ” The Nazis were no fools; they had the good sense not to leave behind records of the Jews who were gassed ”
    seems to contest the widely held claim that the Holocaust is the most widely and meticulously documented event in history.

    Comment by Pete — October 27, 2012 @ 12:14 pm

    • The 14 year old girl is obviously Polish. She was a Polish political prisoner in the main camp. Dr. Mengele did selections of the Jews arriving at the Auschwitz II (Birkenau) camp. Dr. Mengele had no way of determining the age of the prisoners. A 14 year old girl could have told him that she was 16 and she would have been saved, since Jews over the age of 15 were not gassed. But she was not Jewish, so she would not have been selected for the gas chamber. If she had arrived at Birkenau, Dr. Mengele might have asked her if she would like to work in the brothel in the main camp, but he would never have waved her to the left for the gas chamber.

      Comment by furtherglory — October 27, 2012 @ 12:50 pm

    • The Nazis operated a clear distinction between Christians and Jews; thus, according to the NYT, Mr. Brasse was one of thousands of inmates evacuated to concentration camps farther west.

      Jews were death-marched instead.

      By the way, next to Brasse’s obituary, out of the 10 most e-mailed stories, a mere 7 are related to the close to zero percent.

      Comment by Eager For Answers — October 27, 2012 @ 5:42 pm

      • Thanks for pointing out that Brasse was “evacuated.” I missed that. I learned from Professor Harold Marcuse that the Jews were marched out as a means of killing them, and not as a means of taking them to Germany to work. I became a “Holocaust denier” when I wrote on my blog months ago that the Jews were marched out of Auschwitz for the purpose of taking them to Germany to work. Now there is no hope for me: I am a hardened criminal.

        Comment by furtherglory — October 27, 2012 @ 6:03 pm

        • Of course the German civilians in January 1945 of Silesia and East Prussia had a more luxurious journey to the ” inner Reich” . In this Wochenschau we see refugees travelling in luxury trains instead of walking through frozen terrain.

          Comment by Pete — October 28, 2012 @ 2:46 am

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

%d bloggers like this: