Those not liberated
above is one of the only images of the extermination process that
took place at Auschwitz-Birkenau II. It was taken by a member of the
sonderkommando, Nazi victims forced to take part in the
killing processes of the facility, who was later killed. He took four
pictures, which were smuggled out of camp. This image, shot from
inside a building and with the camera hidden, shows other members of
the sonderkommando, burning bodies due to the inability of the
crematoriums to deal with the number of dead. The second image shows
women undressing before they are herded into a gas chamber for
extermination. The shots show that the photographer was unable to
view his images before capturing the image as he had to keep the
camera hidden from the SS.
Few of the sonderkommando, and none of the others sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau II’s killing facility for extermination, survived the war. These images depict the reality of the Holocaust for most of the victims. None of the death camps of the Holocaust were liberated by Americans or British. None of them were located in Germany. The extermination camps of Operation Reinhard, which was responsible for the deaths of the Polish Jews in camps specifically designed for extermination process, were dismantled during 1943 and 1944 having completed their tasks of killing roughly 1.7 million Jews. Auschwitz Birkenau II’s crematorium and gas sites were dismantled before the Soviet liberation of the camp.
Hence, when the victims liberated by Americans told of gas chambers and crematorium, they were not speaking of the chambers and crematorium at Buchenwald and Dachau. Instead, they were victims who had, before the liberation of Auschwitz, been marched by the Germans into the concentration camps of Germany itself. American and British troops confused the different camps and associated the extermination process of the camps in the East with the concentration camps of Germany. While many died in the camps due to poor conditions, shooting, hunger, disease, etc., explicitly exterminatory actions in gas chambers did not take place in them. It is this chaotic situation that leads to much of the confusion regarding an American understanding of the Holocaust.
No. 281. August 1944. Wikimedia. Accessed January 22, 2017.
No. 282: Women being taken to the gas chamber. August 1944. Wikimedia. Accessed January 22, 2017.
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. “Operation Reinhard (Einsatz Reinhard).” United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Accessed January 22, 2017.
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. “Auschwitz.” United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Accessed January 22, 2017.
(Caption by /u/KugelFang52)