Auschwitz - Poland
Old 06-25-2013   #1
Johnmcd
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Auschwitz - Poland

During my time in Poland I had the opportunity to visit Auschwitz concentration camp.

I'm still not sure how I feel. Like most people I have seen pictures and heard accounts of what happened. But now I have walked along the same paths and entered the same buildings as those that were tortured and killed. Standing there, I can only imagine the depths of despair that one must of felt. It is reliably estimated that at least 1.3 million people were murdered, mostly between 1943 and 1944. At least twenty percent were children.

People did this to other people. How? I cannot comprehend.

I felt that a fleeting digital snapshot did not seem appropriate. I truly felt that special care and respect was due when developing these images in the same way that the black and white images I saw during the day were produced, some of them at great risk to the photographer.

No claims to any artistic flair with these images other than to document and show to others what it looked like. I did try to limit other people in the images but once or twice a lone figure caught in their thoughts, seemed appropriate.

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Old 06-25-2013   #2
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It truly is incomprehensible how humans can be so cruel. Your photos display the melancholy of the place, so devoid of such terrible activity now.

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Old 06-25-2013   #3
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Of course it now looks so sterile, almost antiseptic but underneath lies the ugly truth. Thanks for sharing the photos.
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Old 06-25-2013   #4
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First let me say thank you for sharing the photography.

Lately I have been studying lots of things concerning the third reich and just tonight I came across this character who I think is very important to the story behind the death camps. He is not one of the well known Nazis like Eichmann but I believe he should be. This is his story and the link has 20 plus detailed pages of it. Perhaps he is the "big fish" that got away and survived. I'll let you all read the story and decide. Personally I think he made it through the war and maybe is still alive to this day. Only in the past few years have some of his "peers" been discovered alive and doing well.

When Heydrich was killed that was a turning point for the Nazis and the Final Solution. They unleashed the devil.

http://www.mazal.org/archive/documen...Tregenza01.htm
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Old 06-25-2013   #5
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My dad took me to Oswiecim as a junior in high school. Images of shaved hair, ripped out prostheses, and empty suitcases gave me nightmares.


(more here: LINK)

It was a consolation to remind myself that those crimes happened such a long time ago.

A few years later, I spent some time in then West Germany with my h.s. class, meeting with local high school-age youth. We met many nice kids and started some friendships. On our last night there, a fairly large group of German high-school boys stood by our hotel windows and sang Deutschland Deutschland Uber Alles, accompanied by cries of “go home Polish swine”.

I still cringe a little at the sound of the German language. I think it may be centuries before that past truly becomes “history”.
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Old 06-25-2013   #6
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John-

Your images give me a chill. It's hard to think about the horror. It definitely puts a lot of today's irritants into perspective and make you want to just go kiss some one to share the feeling of being free and alive.

Thanks for posting these shots.

Tom
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Old 06-25-2013   #7
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Can I also say John thanks for the photographic reminder of the horrors of Auschwitz. I visited the camp when my Polish father took us to Poland, in a ford corsair, from Scotland for a holiday in 1968. My father was in the Polish Army during the Second World War. I had just turned 16. It was a life-changing event for me. I'll never forget the experience, or indeed the holiday.
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Old 06-25-2013   #8
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John, it was exactly the same for me when I visited the Auschwitz and Birkenau camps a few years ago.

Walking through the rooms filled with personal items, suitcases and cut-off hair you can't help but shiver at the thought of what happened there. You're images captured that very well. Thank you for sharing.
I also feel a surge of anger and despair about how some idiots still claim it never happened.
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Old 06-25-2013   #9
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It wasn't a long time ago. My parents were alive (mother's still alive) when this was going on. We have friends of the family who lived through this, survived the camps.. are still alive today. I've seen the tattoo.

Photography was invented a full century before these events took place. (In fact, I shoot with lenses almost a hundred years older than these events)

Historically, this was yesterday

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It was a consolation to remind myself that those crimes happened such a long time ago.
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Old 06-26-2013   #10
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I felt the same emotions recently, when visiting Tol Sleng (S21) in Phnom Penh, Cambodia - a sense of disbelief at the horrors inflicted, and the lack of compassion on those who inflicted them. Similarly, to the horrors of Auschwitz and others, Tol Sleng, which is an innocuous school in central Phnomh Penh, has photographs of those who passed though its doors on the way to the Killing Fields. For me, the most haunting of these were those of the children, some apparently as young as 7 or 8, who endured these horrors on their way to die.
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Old 06-26-2013   #11
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Some of my Hungarian relatives ended their days here. I have often wondered what I would feel if I visited the actual place. My bet is not very much - the history of the Shoah is so horrifying and unbelievable that it is hard to imagine even when confronted by its physical remnants. And whenever I visit a historical site of any sort I seldom find that I am moved as much as I want to be. Having said that I recall visiting the Jewish Museum in Sydney, Australia. The exhibit that DID move me very much was a room containing a vast pile of childrens' shoes. Even now thinking of it my eyes mist. A set of photos of Auschwitz in a photography magazine also moved me - the photos were taken using a slow shutter speed so that visitors to the awful place were nothing more than blurs. They looked for all the world like ghosts from the past. But this involved interpreting the place. In the event it was an interpretation that displayed what in my view is the very best in photography.
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Old 06-26-2013   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hugivza View Post
I felt the same emotions recently, when visiting Tol Sleng (S21) in Phnom Penh, Cambodia - a sense of disbelief at the horrors inflicted, and the lack of compassion on those who inflicted them. Similarly, to the horrors of Auschwitz and others, Tol Sleng, which is an innocuous school in central Phnomh Penh, has photographs of those who passed though its doors on the way to the Killing Fields. For me, the most haunting of these were those of the children, some apparently as young as 7 or 8, who endured these horrors on their way to die.
While I was walking through the 'streets' I kept having to force myself to imagine what horrors occurred here. In some ways it was just too unreal to accept. But there were two areas that really brought it home to me. The first was a hallway in one of the buildings that was lined with portraits of the people that had entered the camp. Each consisted of two images and two dates, when they arrived and when they died. Some also had an occupation. Some lasted years but most were weeks or months. But one must also remember that these represent the 25% that were chosen to work, the other 75% (mostly women, children and the old) were sent straight from the rail car to their death.

These images reminded me of those in Cambodia. I looked for some time at each image. Some were proud and defiant, in others I saw a certain hopelessness. I tried to imagine what my image would look like under the same circumstances?

The other area that really affected me was the prison cells in the 'jail'. Here prisoners were starved to death or even suffocated in the cells. In one cell only enough room to stand. As I walked down those stair to the basement cells, I walked in their steps...

There were many people whose bravery was amazing. One such Polish officer actually allowed himself to be taken prisoner to gather information an try and alert the rest of the world. A story of true courage.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witold_Pilecki
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Old 06-26-2013   #13
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My eldest has been to Auschwitz. He was deeply affected by the experience, and now occasionally gives talks to schools and other groups organised by the HET, I think.

Many of the photos just look like any militarised encampment, and I guess that is what most of the site does look like. But we have a knowledge which informs our viewing of these images which we cannot (and should not) detach from it.

One of the most horrifying aspects of this whole episode is that, even before the war broke out, socialists and trade unionists who had been interned in concentration camps and had escaped had told of the slave labour and appalling conditions, but it was inconvenient for Allied governments, many of whom were considering appeasement, neutrality or alliance with the Nazis, so you only find the information in socialist published newspapers and books of the thirties. So nothing was done to stop the internment and slaughter. We have our share of shame.
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Old 06-26-2013   #14
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I've visited also Auschwitz, and S21 & Killing Fields in Phnom Penh more recently. in both cases, could not help wonder how society can turn so vengeful and full of hatred against some of its members, that whole state apparatus is machined to lunatic task of genozide. it requires madman to be in lead ofcourse, but how abnormal circumstances are required that millions will follow and obey him.
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Old 06-26-2013   #15
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Old 06-26-2013   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rodchenko View Post

One of the most horrifying aspects of this whole episode is that, even before the war broke out, socialists and trade unionists who had been interned in concentration camps and had escaped had told of the slave labour and appalling conditions, but it was inconvenient for Allied governments, many of whom were considering appeasement, neutrality or alliance with the Nazis, so you only find the information in socialist published newspapers and books of the thirties. So nothing was done to stop the internment and slaughter. We have our share of shame.
It is what you allow THEM to get away with -
and the big question is how much "we" and "me personally" is included in "THEM".

There is a poem by Pastor Martin Niemoeller referring to this:

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent; I was not a communist.
When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent; I was not a social democrat.
When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out; I was not a trade unionist.
When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent; I wasn't a Jew.
When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

Does anybody think that looking at some horrors of the past might be enough to transform us into "better human beings"?
Or let me take it the other way around:
what is the "humanistic" value of the catharsis happening when confronting our all too human past?
And where is the action resulting out of it?
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Old 06-26-2013   #17
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I strongly recommend Margarethe von Trotta's film "Hannah Arendt" about the writing of the Banality of Evil
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Old 06-26-2013   #18
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I strongly recommend Margarethe von Trotta's film "Hannah Arendt" about the writing of the Anatomy of Evil
I would rather go for Arendt's "original" work "Eichmann in Jerusalem". BTW - it is not the anatomy of evil but the banality of evil.
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Old 06-27-2013   #19
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... for anyone with the time and constitution this English language version of The Wannsee Conference sort of explains the how it was done ... Conspiracy ... Kenneth Branagh as Heydrich is truly chilling.
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Old 06-27-2013   #20
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Quote:
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... for anyone with the time and constitution this English language version of The Wannsee Conference sort of explains the how it was done ... Conspiracy ... Kenneth Branagh as Heydrich is truly chilling.
I agree with you about Branagh's portrayal. I've read HHhH by Laurent Binet......about the assassination of Heydrich and the aftermath of his killing, how many innocent civilians died as the Nazis looked for retribution. This is recent history.
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Old 06-27-2013   #21
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The flipside of the death of Heydrich was the response of his brother Heinz, who received Rainhard's personal papers, and became involved in facilitating the escapes of many Jews by printing forged documents at his newspaper plant.
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Old 06-27-2013   #22
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I have been Theresienstadt as well, but I recall I wasn't moved as much as when I visited Auschwitz. Of course I 'only' 16 at the time. I mainly remember seeing the insides of the cell blocks.

I live near Kamp Vught here in the Netherlands, which was a work camp. The visits there didn't move me quite as deeply Auschwitz either. Eventhough over 700 people died there from maltreatment and by execution during the war.
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Old 06-27-2013   #23
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I would rather go for Arendt's "original" work "Eichmann in Jerusalem". BTW - it is not the anatomy of evil but the banality of evil.
Thanks. I stand corrected. Of course the original work is preferred.
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