I thought a lot about publishing these photos. As you might imagine, it’s a peculiar album in many aspects. The first one, obviously, is that it’s objective could never be to show how fun it is to travel. The second is that with each one of these photos comes a huge historical weight. The third, and most important, is that it wouldn’t be possible to anyone to actually LIKE any of it. The objective could not be getting likes.
However I want to follow into the right direction: using it to continue remembering the dramaticity of the subject. For whoever sees theses photos may feel a little bit of what I felt when taking them. If you find yourself a little uncomfortable with this subject, please, do not proceed. The next paragraphs will be the reports of my own steps in Auschwitz and Birkenau.
It’s impossible to exist more irony and contradiction as in the first words on Auschwitz’s main entrance. Work will set you free. Mainly because, just in front of you, there is a gigantic kitchen where you’d work for that freedom. I’m pretty sure that – despite the barbed wire, the escort and the comfort of the accommodation – for a first view, the Concentration Camp may even look like a good restart. It’s a big and beautiful living space, clearly provisional, with courtyards to work, wide streets and an amazing landscape around you. The floor is rocky, rustic and sharp enough to gnaw bare feet. The accommodation walls doesn’t have lots of finishing. It's a normal German architecture, carrying in it’s style the marks of a fast driven work. Marks that would grow deep for the crimes that followed.
It is to expect that life in captivity shouldn’t be that comfortable. As those prisoners that pays for their debts in small cells would say, nowadays – with no respect for life in many ways. But even they, for whom many people fight to give dignity beyond the cells, would be noble kings in Auschwitz. We’re talking about a place designed to kill. Starved, tired, shot, suffocated. It cannot be compared to any other prison around the world.
Just in case the death of a million and a half people isn’t enough to make you feel heartache, get yourself prepared to discover that a major part of the victims didn’t even know they were going to captivity. In the first years of the Camp, the prisoners arrived to work and restart their lives from scratch – under Nazi’s custody. They carried among them clothes, towels, bags, toys, food and cutlery. Items that would be confiscated later, during selection. That was the first reality shock. That time, for the first time, they'd know that the propaganda was fake and they were there to die.
There was no privacy in the bathroom. Not even a minimum of hygiene: clothes were the same for months. Those ones brought with the luggage were stolen by Nazi to serve as souvenirs. Even their hair was cut to make carpets. (Yes. Human hair’s carpet.)
Despite the conditions, those who did not behave properly would go straight on to the wall, to get hit until their arms and shoulder’s tendons were ruptured. And so, inapt to work, they suffered of pain ‘til starve to death. Others, lucky ones, watched the killing of their children, and then their wife, until they got shot in the head.
Whenever there was a need to exterminate a large number of people, the best way was to put them all in one of those gas chambers. In Auschwitz there were few: killing only 700 to 800 people daily. They choke for 45 minutes until the stone’s venom obstructed their tracheas.
The numbers of prisoners grew exponentially, forcing that field to expand, as it was insufficient for that much killing. And so the Nazi’s made a few more Camps, being Birkenau the biggest and most famous. It had more than the double of the area and equipped with more efficient and more hidden killing machines. Whoever passed through selection had a life expectancy of 3 months. The fulfilled trains arrived many times a day.
The extermination capacity grew to 7.000 slaves per day. I mean: counting only the registered ones. There were lots of people that died before the selection or were sent to the campfires before the registration. It is not possible to estimate the total number of victims.
The accommodations, made by slaves, were smaller, hosting more people and in more quantity in Birkenau, rather than Auschwitz. Mostly were made of poor wood with no heating inside. In the Polish winter, the prisoners held a -15º C cold with only a 2-piece cotton clothes. During the summer, temperatures rise up to 45ºC inside the tents.
Gas chambers were hidden behind lots of trees. So that whoever arrived, wouldn’t see them. Anyway, as the space became insufficient again, the Nazi’s started to burn people in the fresh. It was pure hell. The contamination helped making the killing faster.
And so, in only 5 years, the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex became one of the biggest and most terrifying killing factory ever registered.
For ever let this place be a cry of despair and a warning to humanity, where the Nazis murdered about one and a half million men, women, and children. Mainly Jews from various countries of Europe.
May the problems of today's society belittle in front of such atrocity.