photography by swartz



1. Faces of the Holocaust


Auschwitz (Oświęcim) was opened in June 1940 and became the largest Nazi concentration camp in Poland. Approximately 75% of the Jews deported to Auschwitz were killed in the gas chambers immediately upon arrival. The others were exterminated by hard labor, hunger, or criminal experimentation.

As the number of inmates increased, the camp needed to expand. In 1941, Auschwitz II (Birkenau) was constructed nearby. It was in Birkenau that the Nazis constructed most of their instruments of death gas chambers, crematoria, and cremation pyres. By 1942, Birkenau became the largest and deadliest of all the camps of mass extermination of Jews. To demonstrate the magnitude of this operation, there were 44 parallel train tracks in Auschwitz more than twice the number of tracks found in Pennsylvania Station in New York City.

On May 15, 1944, the deportation of Hungarian Jews began. By July 8th, more than 437,000 Jews had been sent to Auschwitz. In August 1944, at the peak of Hungarian deportations, as many as 12,000 Jews were gassed in one day.

Shown here are Hungarian Jews in May 1944 upon arrival on the notorious "ramp" of Birkenau, where the SS decided who was to die at once and who should live longer in torment.

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Last modified: 04/01/09