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July 17, 2013

Family photos displayed at Auschwitz-Birkenau in the Sauna building

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 12:39 pm
Family photos on display in the Sauna building at Auschwitz-Birkenau

Family photos on display in the Sauna building at Auschwitz-Birkenau

The photo above shows a display of photos that had been brought to the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp in the luggage carried by the Jews. Behind this photo board are more photos on display.  Somehow the photos survived.

I took the photo above, in the Sauna building, on my second visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau in 2005. The floor in the room has been covered in glass to preserve it; the photo board is reflected in the glass.

On my first visit to Auschwitz, in 1998, the Sauna building was not open. Visitors to Auschwitz were prevented from seeing the inside of this building for 60 years, before it was finally opened in 2005.  The Sauna building contains a real shower room, which is not something that visitors to a “death camp” should see.

This quote is from an article, written by Menachem Z. Rosensaft, whose father was shown in one of the photos that were saved:

All we know is that the photographs were rescued by inmates and hidden in the camp, lest the Germans burn them.  For decades after the war, they lay in a storage room in one of the buildings at Auschwitz.  In 1986, Ann Weiss, the daughter of two Holocaust survivors, came upon them almost by accident. She returned to Poland two years later and painstakingly copied the photographs.  In 2001 many of them were published in Ann Weiss’ book, “The Last Album: Eyes from the Ashes of Auschwitz-Birkenau.”

This quote from the article in the Jewish Chronicle describes the photo of Menachem Rosensaft’s father, Josef Rosensaft, which was found at Auschwitz-Birkenau:

The black and white photograph is of a young man, not yet 30 years old.  He is standing near the tower of a 14th century castle in the southern town of Będzin, wearing a long sleeved white shirt and tie, but no jacket.  He holds a hat in his hand as he looks into the camera.  The picture was taken before the Germans arrived, before the Jews of Będzin were forced to live in a ghetto, before the young man’s sisters and brother were taken to their death at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

The young man did not know that day that he would eventually be deported from Będzin with his wife and her daughter, or that he would escape from the Auschwitz-bound train by diving out of a window into the Vistula River, or that he would return to the ghetto even though he had been hit by three German bullets, or that he would learn that all the Jews on his transport had been taken directly to the gas chambers.  He did not know when his picture was taken beside the Będzin castle that he would survive the as-yet unbegun war, would survive Auschwitz-Birkenau (including many months in the notorious Block 11, known as the death block) as well as the Lagisha labor camp and the Langensalza, Dora-Mittelbau and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps. All that was still to come.

The photograph itself also survived Auschwitz. It was one of approximately 2,400 photographs that Jews had brought with them as they arrived there, unaware of their fate, and that they were forced to surrender together with their other meager belongings — their suitcases, their clothes. We will never know whether the picture had belonged to the young man’s wife, or to one of his sisters, or to a friend.

Wait a minute!  Josef Rosensaft was in Block 11?  This was the famous prison block where prisoners, who had been accused of a crime, were held until they could be put on trial, and if convicted, executed at the Black Wall.
So Josef Rosensaft had been accused of a crime, possibly fighting as an illegal combatant with the Jewish Resistance, but he was not convicted.  Then he was sent to two labor camps before being sent to Dora-Mittelbau, the famous camp where V-2 rockets were being built.  Then he was evacuated to Bergen-Belsen, an exchange camp which had been turned into a concentration camp, in the last days of the war.  Josef Rosensaft’s whole story disputes the claim that Hitler wanted to genocide the Jews.  His story amounts to “Holocaust denial.”

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