I have been reading about the young American girl who took a “selfie” at the Auschwitz main camp and then put the photo on Twitter. She has been widely criticized for this, but I see nothing wrong with the photo. It shows a pretty girl with some beautiful brick buildings in the background. What’s wrong with that?
You can read about the outrage caused by the “selfie” here.
One of the news stories, which you can read in full here, says that photos are now forbidden in the exhibit room, at Auschwitz, where hair, cut from the heads of the Jew, is shown. On my first trip to Auschwitz in 1998, I could not get close enough to take a photo of the hair that is displayed in a large glass case, because of the large crowd of tourists, but I did take a photo of the hair in a small glass case, which is shown below. I also took a photo of the shoes that are on display.
Photos in the basement of Block 11 and in the gas chamber are also forbidden now, according to the news article.
I am very glad now that I got to see Auschwitz in 1998 and again in 2005; I was allowed to take photos of everything. You can see all of my 2005 photos on my website here.
I think that the reason that photos of some things at Auschwitz are forbidden is because there are millions of tourists now visiting the camp, and the crowds must move along quickly; taking photos would hold up the long lines of people creeping along at a snail’s pace.
But there could be other reasons why certain things cannot be photographed at Auschwitz. For example, the reconstructed “standing cells” in the basement of Block 11 look very suspicious to me. These cells were reconstructed by the Soviets, long after they had been torn down, on the orders of the Auschwitz camp commandant.
My 1998 photograph above shows the reconstructed entrance to one of the 4 standing cells (Stehzellen) in prison cell #22 in the basement of Block 11. These 4 cells were 31.5 inches square; there was no light coming in at all, and no heating or cooling system.
Prisoners had to crawl into the cell through a tiny door, as shown in the photo above. Metal bars at the entrance allowed guards to open the door and look inside the cell. There was no room to lie down, nor to sit down in the cell; prisoners had to stand up. The floors of these cells were covered with excrement left by the occupants.
Prisoners who were being punished were put into these cells at night, and in the morning taken out to perform a full 10-hour day of work. This punishment was usually given to prisoners who had tried to sabotage the work done in the factories at Auschwitz.
The reconstructed door, which is shown in my photo above, opens into Cell #2; there is another cell to the right of the door, which you can see in the photo. To the left in the picture above, you can see the edge of the door into Cell #1 on the left, which gives you an idea of how small these cells were. Imagine the problem of removing a dead body from one of these cells!
After Arthur Liebehenschel replaced Rudolf Hoess as the camp commandant on December 1, 1943, he ordered the standing cells to be torn down. The standing cells have been partially reconstructed.
I previously blogged here about a prisoner named Eleanor Hodys, who claimed to have been kept in a standing cell at Auschwitz for nine weeks.
If photos are not allowed now, in the basement of Block 11, that means that photos of Cell #27 cannot be taken anymore.
In October 1998, I took a tour of the Auschwitz I camp and saw the basement inside Block 11.
According to my tour guide, on Sept. 3, 1941, the Nazis conducted the first mass killing of people using Zyklon-B in prison cell number 27 in Block 11. Adolf Eichmann was visiting the Auschwitz camp on that day, although Commandant Rudolf Höss was away on business, according to the Auschwitz Museum guidebook. Since 1939, Adolf Eichmann had been the head of Department IV, B4 in the Reich Central Security Office (RSHA); Eichmann’s department was in charge of getting rid of the Jews in Europe.
Karl Fritzsch, the camp commander and the deputy of Rudolf Höss, took it upon himself to carry out this first gassing, while his superior officer, Rudolf Höss, was away.
The wooden door of the cell where the gassing took place is shown in the photo above; notice the glass peephole in the door. In 1998, tourists were not permitted to see the interior of the cell.
According to the news article, tourists are no longer allowed to take photos inside the gas chamber in the main camp. This new rule could have been made because it would hold up the lines of people walking through the gas chamber, or it could be because the so-called gas chamber in the main Auschwitz camp is too stupid for words.
If you need a photo of the gas chamber in the Auschwitz main camp, check out my photos here.