The First Allied Aerial Reconnaissance Over Auschwitz

The first picture of Auschwitz taken by the Allies.

After the ‘disinfecting operators’ had poured the lethal gas crystals into the gas chambers one of them took the empty tins back to their Red Cross ambulance while, as a rule, the other walked over to the changing rooms to see if there was any organizing to be done. Although on several occasions I was quite close to the ambulance, I never managed to grab hold of one of the tins. I was despairing as it looked as though I would never be able to. And then I had an idea.




The ‘Kinder Aktion’ in the Kovno ghetto

Two children in the ghetto in February 1944.  Any Jew could be summarily shot for not wearing a yellow star - the parents of these two obviously took the threat seriously. It would have made no difference when they  became targets of the Nazi 'Kinder Aktion' on 27th March.

But those figures did not add up. From the available to them data Germans knew that a large number of old people and children had not been found yet. The next day round-ups had resumed. Every suspicious place was carefully searched, hand grenades were thrown into basements and lofts. All newly discovered people were put into lorries and sent to the 9th Fort.




Survival in Auschwitz – understand the system

The Nazi concentration camp system ran on a  system of brutality that had been refined ever since they had established camps for their political enemies when they first gained power.

SS men exist but are few and outside the camp, and are seen relatively infrequently. Our effective masters in practice are the green triangles, who have a free hand over us, as well as those of the other two categories who are ready to help them – and they are not few.




Morgenthau argues for direct action to help the Jews

Although the Allies had substantial evidence of the Holocaust by 1944, the true scale of what the Nazis were doing was not fully realised until the camps were liberated and pictures emerged. 
Starved prisoners, nearly dead from hunger, pose in concentration camp in Ebensee, Austria. The camp was reputedly used for "scientific" experiments. It was liberated by the 80th Division. May 7, 1945. Lt. A. E. Samuelson. (Army)

Despite the fact that time is most precious in this matter, State Department officials have been kicking the matter around for over a year without producing results; giving all sorts of excuses for delays upon delays; advancing no specific proposals designed to rescue Jews, at the same time proposing that the whole refugee problem be “explored” by this Government and Intergovernmental Committees.




An English PoW at work in Auschwitz

Overview of IG Farben's plant, near Auschwitz" ; circa 1941 Source : German Federal Archive

Behind it all stood the SS and the executives of IG Farben itself. The Kapos, the prisoners put in charge of their fellows, became the focus of my anger. They were evil men and many wore the green triangle of the career criminal. Their survival depended on keeping the rest of the prisoners in line. If they lost their privileged job they were friendless and then they didn’t live long.




Secrets and lies to protect Jews in Nazi Germany

Almost everyone in Germany now faced the threat of the bomber. Dresden, in the east, had been spared so far.  But nearby Leipzig had recently been hit so people were now more fearful.

My friend Mobius also belongs to the SS, but you need have no fears because of that, his thoughts on these matters are even more radical than mine. Only I beg you, you must not say that you are well off with us. On the contrary, you must complain about bad treatment; otherwise we will get into trouble, and it will be to your detriment above all. Schluter essentially failed because he got a reputation for being favorably disposed to Jews…”




The holocaust is uncovered in the Ukraine

Villagers greet Soviet soldiers during the liberation of the Ukraine.

This was the murder of a great and ancient professional experience, passed from one generation to another in thousands of families of craftsmen and members of the intelligentsia. This was the murder of everyday traditions that grandfathers had passed to their grandchildren, this was the murder of memories, of a mournful song, folk poetry, of life, happy and bitter, this was the destruction of hearths and cemetries, this was the death of the nation which had been living side by side with Ukrainians over hundreds of years …




Escape from unspeakable horror of Camp Syret

Jews in Kiev on the way to Babi Yar pass bodies of those already shot, September 1941.

At last the Germans understood what was happening and all the guards got to their feet. They started pursuing us on cars, motorcycles and with dogs. The ravine was lit with flares. The shooting remained in front of us. The pursuers did not know where to aim their shooting since all the prisoners scattered in different directions. Some of them ran off with a chain still clamped to one leg, since they had no time to unchain it.




Auschwitz: selected to work by Mengele

Hoess the commandant of Auschwitz tours Buna with Himmler.

Then a number of civilians came to the block. They were accompanied by Hauptsturmführer Rudolf Höss, the Kommandant of Auschwitz. The consensus of our block supervisors indicated that they were from I.G. Farben, a large German pharmaceutical company that already employed prisoners in the nearby Buna camp. At Buna, the I.G. Farben Company was making synthetic rubber. There, we were told, the inmate death rate was very high, and they had a continuous need for replacement workers. We believed that it could only be better than our present situation. We just wanted to get out of here.




A desperate escape attempt from Treblinka

Smoke rising from Treblinka on the 2nd August 1943, a picture taken by the Polish underground.

Shots are heard from all sides. The Ukrainians, whom our comrades have lured from the watchtowers, lie dead. Two S.S. excavator operators are dead. We head for the barbed wire shouting: – Revolgutsga v Berline! (Russian: Revolution in Berlin!) Several of the Ukrainians become disorientated and put up their hands. Their weapons are taken from them. We cut the wires one after the other. We are already at the third barbed-wire fence.