This photograph has been mentioned in a recent thread:
Train crash site:Dresden,Ohio 1912? / sonderkommandos
Laughably "retouched" versions have fueled reasonable suspicion of forgery:
Looking a little deeper into the "official" history of this photograph, we find some interesting details about it's supposed roots:
Several members of the Sonderkommando squads of mainly Jewish prisoners working in the crematoria who were responsible for emptying the gas chambers and burning the corpses, “beginning with those of its predecessors,” were desperate “to record the crimes committed by the Germans in the Auschwitz gas chambers.” The evidence of photographs would warn others to resist getting on the trains and attract the attention of the Allied forces.
In a 1987 interview, former Spanish Freedom fighter and anti-Fascist David Szmulewski claimed that prisoners damaged the roof of the crematorium to create a need for a repair team. “Working as a roofer, Szmulewski had more access and freedom to move around the camp without being suspected by the guards.” He lowered the camera, hidden in a false bottom of a bucket, into the crematorium to members of the Sonderkommando below and then kept watch from the roof. Alter Fajnzylberg, from France and also a Spanish Civil War veteran, testified in 1985 that four people were present: he and brothers Szlomo (Szlojme) and Josek (Abram) Dragon, at Auschwitz since Dec 1942, guarded and determined the moment when Alberto “Alex” Errera, a Jew from Greece, “quickly took out his camera and pointed it toward a heap of burning bodies and pressed the shutter.” Then the photographer hid between some trees in the courtyard and another picture was taken as the women and men undressed in front of the trees. Alex “tried to escape shortly after the event and was shot at the beginning of September 1944.”
“The exposed film was taken back to the main camp where Helena Szpak-Daton, who worked in the SS canteen, concealed it in a toothpaste tube and smuggled it out of the camp” on September 7, 1944. A secret message, addressed to the PPS (Polish Socialist Party) Brzeszcze Group leadership, was handwritten in Polish by Józef Cyrankiewicz and Stanislaw Klodzinki (active in the left-oriented Polish resistance movement at Auschwitz):
"We are sending you pictures from Birkenau, from a gas-
sing operation. The picture shows one of the pyres in the open
air, on which corpses are burned, when the crematorium cannot
keep up with the burning. In front of the pyre lie corpses, wait-
ing to be thrown on the pyre. The other picture shows one of the
places in the little woods, where people undress supposedly for a
shower, and then go to the gas. Send the enclosed pictures
immediately to “Tell.” The pictures can be enlarged and, we feel,
be sent further on."
“Tell” was the pseudonym of Teresa Lasocka-Estreicher of the PWOK (Home Army unit in Cracow), “an active member of the Crakow underground organization Assistance for Concentration Camp Prisoners." In May 1944, the Sonderkommando had been forced to dig huge pits, since the Crematorium was not efficient enough. “The pictures reached Cracow, ”but not the Polish government-in-exile in London. When they were printed, by whom, or whether in Brzeszcze (7 miles from Auschwitz) or in Crakow, is not certain. Apparently, the negatives never left Lasocka’s possession. Prints were, however, used in the 1947 Krakow trial of the Main Commission for Investigation of Nazi Crimes in Poland against “40 major Auschwitz criminals.” The original negatives have been lost; the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum has two sets of contact prints, those donated in the 1960s by Wladyslaw Pytlik, a member of the Brzeszcze resistance, and the originals in 1985 by his wife, Danuta Pytlik.
So, we have no original negatives of these photographs and no way of telling when they were actually taken or, more importantly, why they were taken. Was it:
A) ...to show the legitimate aftermath of an evil Nazi 'gassing' procedure?
- or -
B) ...so that 'surviving Sonderkommando' could falsely portray one of these rare outdoor cremations as a sinister 'extermination' cover-up?
The above-referenced article acknowledges an uncertainty about how a camera might have been brought into Auschwitz. What if it were possible to bring a camera to the crematoria simply because Germans felt they had nothing to hide? Perhaps, this photographer remained hidden to not risk being exposed as a propagandist.
The notoriously inconsistent testimony of the 'Sonderkommando' gang has been a fundamental component to the 'extermination' tale and it seems probable that this crew of spiteful liars was well-into developing a 'gassing' narrative by the time this photograph was taken. While working together in the camps, they realized it'd be simple to take a snapshot from an obviously hidden perspective during a short period in time where the crematoria was not functioning (cremations always had to take place for sanitation purposes during a typhus epidemic that was killing hundreds at a time).
This simple photograph, with a provided false context, would add a much-needed visual component to the sadistic storyline.