Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Auschwitz Open Air Incineration Ground Photographs and Revisionist Forgery Allegations

In summer 1944, the prisoners’ Sonderkommando in Auschwitz-Birkenau secretly took four photographs of the crematorium 5 extermination site (referenced here by their archive numbers at the Auschwitz State Museum as photographs 278/280, 277/281, 282, 283), which were successfully smuggled out of the camp. A detailed historical analysis of the photographs can be found in Jean-Claude Pressac's Technique and Operation of the Auschwitz Gas Chambers.

Quite predictive, leading Revisionists claimed the open air incineration photographs forgeries - their standard response when confronted with inconvenient evidence.

Retouched variants

The Revisionist forgery allegations have been fueled by the fact that indeed four distinct versions of the photograph 280 are known.

Version A was submitted as evidence at the Höß trial as part of Roman Dawidowski's expert report of September 26, 1946 (according to Carlo Mattogno, Auschwitz: Open Air Incinerations, note also that the photo 278 linked above, obviously identical to photo 280, was taken from this publication), preserved at the Auschwitz State Museum (ASM), published in the books of the ASM, used in almost all publications, also available with modified contrast, brightness, saturation.

Version B was published in Tadeusz Kulakowski, Gdyby Hitler zwyciezyl..., 1960. Compared to version A, strong contours of the Sonderkommando prisoners and details of the barb wire/insulation of a fence post in the background have been added.

Version C is reproduced in Sally Wehsely, Die SS-Henker und ihre Opfer, 1965. Compared to version A, contours of the Sonderkommando prisoners and details of a female corpse have been added. The man on left was blackened completely.

Finally, version D can be tracked down only to Udo Walendy’s Bild-"Dokumente" für die Geschichtsschreibung?, 1973. Walendy writes that the close up was taken from Kulakowski and thus should be identical with version B, but this is not the case. The retouched corpse appears as in version C, but the contours of the Sonderkommando prisoner have been not or somewhat slighter enhanced.

Which one is the original? 

Version A can be identified as the original photograph for several reasons:

a) For chronological reasons, it can be traced back to 1946.

b) It is preserved in the archives of the Auschwitz State Museum, was submitted as evidence at the Höß trial and can be recognized as a contact print, while the cropped versions B and C only surfaced in the 60s in rather obscure publications employing collaging and retouching also on other photographs.

b) Version B, C and D can be obtained from a bright version A with some pen strokes. It is easy and straightforward to imagine and reconstruct how they originated from version A.

c) The additional contours of the Sonderkommando prisoners in versions B and C and the blackening of the person in version C seem unnatural and do not fit to the lightening conditions of the photograph

d) The additional features in version B, C and D are lacking on the second photograph (ASM neg. 281) of the scene.

Why was the photograph retouched? 

The retouched versions have not added or removed objects and do not enforce a different interpretation of the scene. Hence, there is no evidence to support a sinister reason.

All retouched versions are based on a bright reproduction of A. The most reasonable explanation seems that the contours and details (or what the retoucher assumed to be the original contours and details washed out on a poor reproduction) were enhanced in order to compensate for the poor light conditions and quality of the photograph.

Udo Walendy

Walendy pointed out in 1973 (Bild-"Dokumente" für die Geschichtsschreibung?) that different versions of the photograph 280 existed. However, his own analysis of the reproductions is seriously flawed.

He claimed that the version reproduced by Kulakowski is the original (in the sense which came first) and also this he considered a drawing. He assumed that version A was an improved version of B. In reality, it is the exact other way round: in version B it was attempted to improve version A. Walendy entirely failed to recognize which is the original and which versions were derived from it.

Moreover, he has published version D and referenced it with Kulakowski, but the reproduction neither corresponds to the retouched variant in
Gdyby Hitler zwyciezyl... or Die SS-Henker und ihre Opfer. So he either failed to provide a correct source for it or - even worse - did some retouching himself.

Walendys arguments against the authenticity of the photograph based exclusively on features in retouched versions and which do not appear in the original, such as the entirely blackened man on the left and the “second elbow” of the leftmost Sonderkommando (from Walendy, Bild-Sonderdruck des historischen Quellenwerkes Europa in Flammen 1939-1945 , Band II), can be immediately dismissed. 

His other objections, that the corpses are too small compared to the Sonderkommando prisoners, that the arm of the leftmost Sonderkommando is too long compared to the right arm and that the shading of the Sonderkommando prisoners is differing, are unsubstantiated and in fact false.

In his most widely known article in Rudolf's Dissecting the Holocaust, Walendy showed again his version D, but the source he mentioned, Schoenberner, Der Gelbe Stern, did not produce a retouched variant but actually the original.

Germar Rudolf

Rudolf's comment in the caption of the respective figure in History and Pseudo-History - A reply on Prof.Dr.Michael Shermer‘s thesesconcering revisionism strongly suggests he considered the photograph a fake. He argued that “the fence posts visible in the background did never exist with that shape in Auschwitz. The real posts had curved tops”. 

The fence posts in Birkenau surely had curved tops and one can easily see this on a nice close up, but at some distance, angle and quality of the photo this get increasingly hard to see (example 1, 2, 3). It is close to deceptive of Rudolf to compare a good quality close up with a poor shot from considerable distance. 

Also, Rudolf showed the retouched version C in the figure and cited Michael Shermer, Why People Believe Weird Things, p. 232. But Shermer has actually reproduced version A, the original.

Carlo Mattogno 

Mattogno accepted the photographs were taken at the crematorium 5 site but claimed there is "no doubt" that both open air incineration photographs "have been grossly retouched" because "[m]ost of the bodies are twisted and indistinct" and form a "shapeless heap"(Mattogno, Auschwitz Open Air Incinerations, p. 38).

That's far from conclusive and compelling. There are other and less sinister explanations for the appearance of the mass of the corpses.

First of all, the low quality of the photographs (the fact that traces of the fence post insulation is visible in the background, as pointed out by Mattogno, does not challenge this observation, also the insulators are only poorly resolved).

Secondly, the photographer had quite a distance and low angle on most corpses. From the perspective, it is likely he was - apart from the couple of corpses lined up at the front - only seeing fractions and parts of corpses.

Thirdly, the corpses are from gassed victims - not from people who peacefully laid down - , dumped there by the Sonderkommando, and many may have actually been in a gruesome, unnatural, twisted state.

Andrew Allen

Allen (aka Ceacaa) argued that the burning pit photographs are forgeries because they are lacking the steps in front of the doorway through which the photograph was taken.

At the time the photographs were taken, the sun was shining from south-west to west and the northern façade of the crematorium 5 was in shade. The steps in front of the doorway are apparently covered in the shade of the building.


The forgery allegations have been made in none less than at least 8 threads at the CODOH discussion forum (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8).  But this intensive Revisionist brainstorming has led to only one new argument. The rest is basically a repetition of Walendy and Rudolf. 

Turpitz asserted that the fence posts are lacking the insulators known for the security fence in Birkenau. However, the claim is not based on a decent analysis if the insulators should be identifiable at all (which is at the first sight at least questionable given the quality of the reproductions). Moreover, the claim is also factually incorrect, since the insulators (Mattogno, Auschwitz Open Air Incinerations) can be vaguely observed at the posts. 


One of the open air incineration photographs has been demonstrable retouched. However, the original photograph can be clearly traced back and identified, and thus used as evidence. There is no indication that the retouching was carried out for sinister reasons.

The Revisionists arguments to justify their forgery/falsification allegations regarding the original photographs are either patently false or weak. There is - so far - no convincing reason to assume or to conclude that these known originals of the open air incineration photographs have been retouched. 


Ingbritt said...

Germar Rudolf writes:

“the fence posts visible in the background did never exist with that shape in Auschwitz"

What utter rubbish. Same fence is STILL there to this day:

Andras Szilagyi said...

I think you will be interested in this recent article: