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MEMORIAL AND MUSEUM AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU FORMER GERMAN NAZI
CONCENTRATION AND EXTERMINATION CAMP

Prisoners photos - memories

In Erkenungdienst I used to take, among other things, photos of prisoners in three body positions: en face, with the head slightly turned and in profile. (…) Photographic equipment came from KL Sachsenhausen. There was a camera where an adapter with a special plate was put; this plate allowed one to take three subsequent photographs. (…)

            Apart from the camera itself, the equipment also consisted of a special cuboidal seat base where the person to be photographed was supposed to sit. This seat base had a metal bar at the back, to which a crescent-shaped prop was attached at the height of the occiput of the sitting prisoner. It was some kind of limiter which kept the head of the person being photographed at the same distance from the camera. When a prisoner changed his or her body position, the photographer did not have to correct the sharpness of the lens anew. The seat base was permanently attached to a round, rotational, 10 cm thick platform. (…)

            A horizontal handle with a metal plate was permanently attached to the seat base. It was possible to put tiles in this plate. The tiles were marked with abbreviations standing for a type of a prisoner, for example “Aso”, “Ppol.”, “BV” etc. The tiles were also marked with the camp number of the prisoner being photographed, made from separate, single digits, painted on vertical plates. (…)

            Photographing was not a daily routine in the prisoner’s life. Each person was photographed only once. When a prisoner entered the room where the camera was and sat on the seat, he or she planted his or her feet on the round platform. Two pictures were taken en face, but one of them was taken with the head turned slightly. One of them was a profile photograph. When the person being photographed changed his or her body position in relation to the lens, the platform was activated and rotated by pulling a lever. Once all three photos were taken, someone said “Weg!” (Get lost!), the person being photographed had to stand up lightly and put his or her feet on the ground. The prisoner was leaning a little bit and while he or she was trying to straighten up, kapo Maltz pulled the lever. The platform movement made the prisoner fall to the floor. (…)

When the evacuation of the camp began, films taken by Walter and Hoffman, photographs for dr. Mengele, were transferred probably to KL Gross-Rosen. Jureczek and I were ordered to burn the negatives in the furnace and we took out what was left of them. We were doing it under Walter’s supervision. Before we left the camp on 18/01/1945, we secured the negatives in the laboratory, boarding the entrance up so that no one could get in there.

Wilhelm Brasse (no. 3444)

 

At the last moment we were ordered to burn all the negatives and photographs kept in Erkenungdienst. First, we put wet photo paper into the tile furnace in the laboratory and then loads of photos and negatives. Such an amount of material prevented the smoke from escaping. When we lit the furnace, we thought that only some of them, at the furnace door, would burn and then the fire without oxygen would be put out. (…) Pretending to be in hurry, I deliberately scattered some of them around the rooms of the laboratory. I knew that during the hurried evacuation, nobody would have time to take everything and something would survive.

Bronisław Jureczek (no. 26672)

 

In the first days of March 1941, after a morning assembly, I stayed in Block 5 where I lived. I shaved my face and had my hair cut. Then I took a borrowed skullcap and went towards Block 18 [according to the new enumeration it was Block 26 – M.H.], where I met the prisoners who were transported there with me.

            Apparently, prisoners were photographed systematically according to the current enumeration, from 1 upwards, as we were gathered there in such an order. Personally, I was taken aback by the lack of prisoners, specifically by the lack of numbers, who certainly hadn’t died naturally.

            When my number was called out, I was taken to the last door on the right side of the corridor. I was ordered to sit on a rotating seat and a photo was taken in three body positions. You had to leave the rotating seat while it was turned which made the person being photographed fall off.

Henryk Porębski (no. 5805)