Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Auschwitz-Birkenau Aerial Photographs

Author: Hans Metzner
The following is a compilation of published aerial photographs (with close-ups) of the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex. I have also listed visible features relevant to mass extermination and figures on Jewish mass transports (derived from the so called Glaser list) to those days with aerial photographs of sufficient quality and before the halt of the extermination in October 1944.

In the context of Holocaust denial, it is noteworthy that the known aerial photographs show only few seconds of Birkenau from high altitude on few days in 1944, thereof only two days with excessive mass killings taken place (31 May and 8 July 1944 - as opposed to four other days in June and August with "mild" activity and "only" one or two Jewish transports arriving). At such frequency, the photographs cannot directly depict the actual magnitude of mass killing on a certain day or even over a period. And yet, more or less static features constantly present or only slowly changing over time such as open air incineration area, thick security and camouflage screens and discolouration at the gas introduction openings on the gas chambers' roofs, as well as repeated heavy smoke from an incineration trench located close to the crematorium 5 gas chambers (also belching smoke on Sonderkommando ground photos) provide more than just a glimpse on the extermination machinery.

A useful resource of information on the various photos compiled by the late Harry Mazal can be found here (just some of the scale figures need to be corrected).

Other blog postings related to the Auschwitz-Birkenau air-photos:

The Auschwitz Open Air Incineration Photographs as Evidence for Mass Extermination

31 May 1944

Unit: South African Air Force 60 Squadron
Air plane: Mosquito
Mission: 60PRS/462 60 SQ

National Archives and Records Administration, RG-373, Records of the Defense Intelligence Agency
Can D1508
exposures 3055-3057
Focal length: 20 inches
Flight altitude: 26,000 feet
Scale: 1:15,569

National Archives and Records Administration, RG-373, Records of the Defense Intelligence Agency
Can D1510
exposures 5018-5019
Focal length: 6 inches
Flight altitude: 27,000 feet
Scale: 1:54,000


Aerial Photographs

Source: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Photograph no. 04144

Source: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Photograph no. 04005

Close-up of Auschwitz-Birkenau Compound:

Source: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Photograph no. 03977

Close-up of Crematoria 4 and 5:

Source: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Photograph no. 03998
Close-up of Crematorium 2 (exposure 3056):

Source: Daniel Keren Jamie McCarthy Harry W. Mazal, The Ruins of the Gas Chambers: A Forensic Investigation of Crematoriums at Auschwitz I and Auschwitz-Birkenau, Figure 26 in online version; note that what is marked in the photograph as earth bank seems like a camaflouge fence while what is marked as gas chamber is about where there could be an earth bank masking the gas chambers' edge.

Close-up of Bunker 2 (exposure 3056):

Source: Mattogno, Auschwitz Open Air Incinerations, Document 20

Visible Activity/Features Related to Mass Extermination
  • About 300 m² of incineration area in four trenches behind crematorium 5 
  • Smoke from one of the trenches behind crematorium 5
  • Ground-levelled for three barracks at Bunker 2 
  • Several possible incineration sites in the pentagon-shaped area at Bunker 2
  • Thick security screen erected between barracks and the pentagon-shaped area at Bunker 2.
  • Discolouration around the four gas introduction openings on the roofs of the gas chambers of crematoria 2 and 3 
  • Thick security screen erected around crematorium 2 (apart from the South-East of the site)
  • Bright spot at the chimney of crematorium 2 possibly indicating activity


Jewish Arrivals on this Day:
  • 10,022 Hungarian Jews in three transports, thereof about 6600 selected as unfit for work


26 June 1944

Unit: South African Air Force 60 Squadron
Air plane: Mosquito

Mission: 60/PR522 60 SQ

National Archives and Records Administration, RG-373, Records of the Defense Intelligence Agency
Can C1172
exposure 5022
Focal length: 6 inches
Flight altitude: 30,000 feet
Scale: 1:60,000

Aerial Photograph

Source: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Photograph no. 04138

Auschwitz-Birkenau Area:

Source: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Photograph no. 91530



Visible Activity/Features Related to Mass Extermination

(poor quality of photograph)

Jewish Arrivals on this Day:
  • 3,006 Hungarian Jews in one transport, thereof about 2,400 selected as unfit for work.


8 July 1944 

Unit: German Luftwaffe

National Archives and Records Administration, RG-373, Auschwitz Box, envelope 17, security set GX DT/TM-3/Germany-East Auschwitz/neg. no. 38 N50 K19 [Film: 14/44 /LGK VIII) B. Nr. 123]

Aerial Photograph

Source: Mattogno, Auschwitz Open Air Incinerations, Document 32


Close-up of Crematorium 2:

Source: Daniel Keren Jamie McCarthy Harry W. Mazal, The Ruins of the Gas Chambers: A Forensic Investigation of Crematoriums at Auschwitz I and Auschwitz-Birkenau, Figure 25 in online version


Visible Activity/Features Related to Mass Extermination
  • Smoke behind crematorium 5
  • Discolouration around the four gas introduction openings on the roofs of the gas chambers of crematoria 2 and 3

Jewish Arrivals on this Day:

12,108 Hungarian Jews in five transports, thereof about 8,800 selected as unfit for work.


9 August 1944

Mission: USEC R-79

National Archives and Records Administration, RG-373, Records of the Defense Intelligence Agency
Can B6912
Exposures 1018-1025
Focal length: 6 inches
Flight altitude: -
Scale: -

(no image available)


20 August 1944

Mission:  USEC R86

National Archives and Records Administration, RG-373, Records of the Defense Intelligence Agency
Can B10658
Exposures 5018-5020
Focal length: 6 inches
Flight altitude: 26,000 feet
Scale:1:52,000

Aerial Photograph

Exposure 5018:

Source: Mattogno, Auschwitz Open Air Incinerations, Document 34

Visible Activity/Features Related to Mass Extermination

  • Smoke behind crematorium 5.
(resolution and quality [scratches] of the photograph is poor)

Jewish Arrivals on this Day:
  • About 2,000 Jews from Lodz with one transport, thereof 522 men and an unknown number of women selected as fit for work


23 August 1944

Unit: South African Air Force 60 Squadron
Air plane: Mosquito

Mission: 60PR/686 60 SQ

National Collection of Aerial Photographs
Can ?
Exposures 3083 - 3086
Focal length: 36 inches
Flight altitude: 29,000 feet
Scale: ~ 1:9000

Aerial photograph

Source: National Collection of Aerial Photographs, 029-091 [exposure 3084]

Visible Activity/Features Related to Mass Extermination

  • About 300 m² of incineration area in four trenches behind crematorium 5 
  • Smoke from one of the trenches behind crematorium 5
  • Two horse-stable barracks at Bunker 2 
  • Several possible incineration sites in the pentagon-shaped area at Bunker 2 and heavy construction work taken place since 31 May 1944
  • Thick security screen erected between barracks and the pentagon-shaped area at Bunker 2.
  • Discolouration around the four gas introduction openings on the roofs of the gas chambers of crematorium 2 and 3 
  • Thick security screens erected around crematoria 2, 3, 4 and 5.
  • note that the queue of people visible between crematoria 4 and 5 seems to walk away from the extermination sites and thus correspond likely to people selected as fit for work returning from the Zentralsauna bathing facility.

Jewish Arrivals on this Day:
  • About 2,000 Jews from Lodz with one transport, thereof 557 men and an unknown number of women selected as fit for work


25 August 1944

Unit: South African Air Force 60 Squadron
Air plane: Mosquito

Mission: 60PR/694 60 SQ

National Archives and Records Administration, RG-373, Records of the Defense Intelligence Agency
Can F5366
Exposures 5016-5018, 5025-5027
Focal length: 6 inches
Flight altitude: 30,000 feet
Scale:1:60,000

National Collection of Aerial Photographs
Can ?
Exposures 4185 - 4188
Focal length: 36 inches (?)
Flight altitude: 30,000 feet (?) Scale: ~ 1:10,000

National Archives and Records Administration, RG-373, Records of the Defense Intelligence Agency (also National Collection of Aerial Photographs)
Can F5367
Exposures 3184-3187
Focal length: 36 inches
Flight altitude: 30,000 feet
Scale:1:10,000

(exposures 3184-3187 and 4185 - 4188 were taken by two different cameras of the same aircraft, see here)

Aerial Photographs



Exposure 5017:
Source: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Photograph no. 04007
Exposure 5018:
Source: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Photograph no. 04006

Exposure 4186:
Source: National Collection of Aerial Photographs, 070-698

Close-up of Crematoria 2 and 3 site:

Source: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Photograph no. 0393


Source: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Photograph no. 04300

Close-up of Crematoria 4 and 5 (exposure 4188):



Close-up of Bunker 2 site (exposure 4188):



Visible Activity/Features Related to Mass Extermination
  • About 300 m² of incineration area in four trenches behind crematorium 5, possibly a fifth incineration site in the North-Western corner of the crematorium 5 backyard.
  • Two horse-stable barracks at Bunker 2 
  • Several possible incineration sites in the pentagon-shaped area at Bunker 2 and heavy construction work taken place since 31 May 1944
  • Thick security screen erected between barracks and the pentagon-shaped area at Bunker 2.
  • Discolouration around the four gas introduction openings on the roofs of the gas chambers of crematorium 2 and 3 
  • Thick security screens erected around crematoria 2, 3, 4 and 5.

Jewish Arrivals on this Day:
  • About 4,000 Jews from Lodz with two transports, thereof 1,144 men and an unknown number of women selected as fit for work


13 September 1944

Unit: United States Airforce 464th Bombardment Group

Mission: 464 BG:4M97

National Archives and Records Administration, RG-373, Records of the Defense Intelligence Agency
Can B8413
Exposure 3V1
Focal length: 12 inches
Flight altitude: 23,000 feet
Scale:1:23,000

National Archives and Records Administration, RG-373, Records of the Defense Intelligence Agency
Can B8413
Exposure 6V2
Focal length: 24 inches
Flight altitude: 23,500 feet
Scale: 1:11,750

Aerial photographs

Exposure 3V1:
Source: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Photograph no. 03198

Exposure 6V2:
Source: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Photograph no. 91527

Visible Activity/Features Related to Mass Extermination
  • Two horse-stable barracks at Bunker 2 
  • Thick security screen around the pentagon-shaped area behind Bunker 2.
  • Discolouration around the four gas introduction openings on the roofs of the gas chambers of crematoria 2 and 3 (partly masked by smoke at crematorium 2)
  • Thick security screens erected around crematoria 2, 3, 4 and 5.

Jewish Arrivals on this Day:
  • No mass transport of Jews (about 1800 Poles from Warsaw).


29 November 1944

Unit: United States Airforce, 5th Photographic Reconnaissance Group
Air plane: P-38 Lightning

Mission: 15SG/887 5PG

National Archives and Records Administration, RG-373, Records of the Defense Intelligence Agency
Can D1616
Exposures 3070, 4058-4059
Focal length: 24 inches
Flight altitude: 26,000 feet
Scale:1:13,000

National Archives and Records Administration, RG-373, Records of the Defense Intelligence Agency
Can D1616
Exposures 5017-5018
Focal length: 6 inches
Flight altitude: 26,000 feet
Scale:1:52,000

Aerial photograph

Source: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Photograph no. 03987



21 December 1944

Unit: United States Airforce, 5th Photographic Reconnaissance Group
Air plane: P-38 Lightning

Mission: 15SG/994 15PG

National Archives and Records Administration, RG-373, Records of the Defense Intelligence Agency
Can D1533
Exposures 3019 - 3022
Focal length: 24 inches
Flight altitude: 25,000 feet
Scale:1:12,500

Mission: 15SG/994 5PG

National Archives and Records Administration, RG-373, Records of the Defense Intelligence Agency
Can D1534
Exposures 4020, 4022-4023 
Focal length: 24 inches
Flight altitude: 25,000 feet
Scale:1:12,500

National Archives and Records Administration, RG-373, Records of the Defense Intelligence Agency
Can D1534
Exposures 5005 - 5008 
Focal length: 6 inches
Flight altitude: 25,000 feet
Scale:1:50,000


Mission: 15SG/997 5PG

National Archives and Records Administration, RG-373, Records of the Defense Intelligence Agency
Can D1535
Exposures 3012-3013
Focal length: 24 inches
Flight altitude: 25,000 feet
Scale:1:12,500

National Archives and Records Administration, RG-373, Records of the Defense Intelligence Agency
Can D1535
Exposures 5002-5003
Focal length: 24 inches
Flight altitude: 24,500 feet
Scale:1:50,000


Mission: 15SG/995 5PG

National Archives and Records Administration, RG-373, Records of the Defense Intelligence Agency
Can D1535
Exposures 4017 - 4018
Focal length: 24 inches
Flight altitude: 25,000 feet
Scale:1:12,500

National Archives and Records Administration, RG-373, Records of the Defense Intelligence Agency
Can D1535
Exposures 5004 - 5005
Focal length: 6 inches
Flight altitude: 24,500 feet
Scale:1:49,000

Aerial photograph

Source: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Photograph no. 03988

14 January 1945

Unit: United States Airforce 5th Photographic Reconnaissance Group
Air plane: P-38 Lightning

Mission: 15SG/1085 5PG

National Archives and Records Administration, RG-373, Records of the Defense Intelligence Agency
Can D3777
Exposure 5004
Focal length: 6inches
Flight altitude: 21,000 feet
Scale:1:42,000

Aerial photograph



19 February 1945

Unit: German Luftwaffe

National Archives and Records Administration, RG-373, GX 12337/145


Aerial photograph
Source: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Photograph no. 04409

__________________________________________
Last changed on 26/10/2018

14 comments:

r thomas said...

A few observations I would like to put out there. May 31st-smoke coming from incineration area at Bunker 2. Incineration pits at this location on this photo on this day have been filled in and replaced with new ones closer to the little white house itself as shown on the photo of the site in August. August 20th-there is also smoke coming out of the chimney of crematorium 3. August 23rd- in contradiction to your comment in your previous post on movement of the line of people between crematorium 4 and 5 and the animated gif you stated that the people were moving towards crematorium 5. August 25th- in the backyard of crematorium 5 there are 5 cremation pits not 4. September 13th- if you look up the uncropped Ariel picture of this day one ditch directly behind bunker 2 has been filled in and all the pits next to crematorium 5 have been filled in.

Hans Metzner said...

r thomas, thanks for you comment.

- I did not mention the apparent smoke from the crematorium 3 chimney on 20 August 44, as it could be just a scratch on the reproduction/negative, see here.

- On the queue between crematorium 4 and 5 on 23 August 44 photo, you are right that I'm now contradicting my earlier blog posting on personnel movement that they move towards the crematorium or the Zentralsauna. Taking into account that the aircraft is flying about from East to West (right to left on the close-up), the queue seems to move slightly to the East (to the right) and thus away from the crematoria and the Zentralsauna. This does not exclude that the queue is moving into the cremtorium yard in the next minutes, but this is obviously impossible to tell and not most likely from these three snapshots capturing the queue.

- the trenches at crematorium 5 seem as have been filled in by 13 September 1944, which is why I have not mentioned them anymore in the activity section.

- I guess I see what you consider a fifth cremation trench at crematorium 5 on 25 August 44.

- On Bunker 2, I guess you mean the rectangular structure near to the house on 31 May 44, which could be an incineration site and which expanded on the August photos, indicating heavy activity at the Bunker 2 site.

r thomas said...

Dear sir thank you for your reply in no way was this meant to be negative comment on your excellent work on this site. I have been a Avid Reader and fan of this blog since about the time it started and never assumed that you missed anything at all in terms of research. I just put some observations on here so some people who may not be as observant or use he's omissions as a part of an argument against your blog. On the bunker 2 pets I was referring to the old ones were farther away hence May 31st picture compared to the August pictures was not just the square pit but one of the long ones which was actually very close to the house itself on the Westside. This was only an observation I meant to put down that I discovered after examining the photos nothing more nothing less. I still believe is your blog argued for the snow from Crematory 3 even your Nemesis and naysayer said he was proven wrong. Thank you and keep up the good work

r thomas said...

Sorry for the misspelled words but I strongly believe that the close up picture of August 20th clearly shows smoke coming out of crematorium 3. It looks nothing like a scratch or as Holocaust deniers that have been argued with on this blog in the past say it is hilariously been referred to as a fossil or something to that effect. Just to make myself clear the long pits that are on the May 31st photo of Bunker 2 we're sometime filled in after that date and replaced with at least three long pits to the west of The Little White House itself and are much closer to the house itself this includes the square pit which is even observed on the February 1945 picture. On the September 1944 picture one of the long pits was filled in. Just an observation because when it comes to combating deniers they split hairs and so should everyone else when pointing out features and I say changing features of the birkenau extermination areas

r thomas said...

And you're linked to the August 20th photo took me to a denial link and how am I supposed to believe that? Has your account been hacked?

r thomas said...

John Ball is that you?

Hans Metzner said...

Well, an argument made by a Holocaust denier is often, but not always and per se false, is it? I did not find any obvious problem in the argument, but if I missed something I will stand corrected. It's my impression that the poor resolution combined with scratches on the reproduction makes it impossible - at least without any further sophisticated analysis - to establish that the discoloration oriented like nearby scratches - but not like actual smoke at crematorium 5 - is smoke from the chimney.

I've put the Bunker 2 site on 31 May and 23 August next to each other here. It's not so straightforward for me to figure out what all the visible structures are (apart from the more obvious ones, the Bunker 2 building itself, the horse stable barracks and the security screen), especially within the pentagon-shaped area. But what is indeed clear - and BTW unexplained by Holocaust deniers - is that there was heavy construction going on between 31 May and 23 August 1944. The pentagon-shaped area was extended to the North, the security screen was completed and moved, the barracks were erected, some straight lines are shown between barracks and Bunker 2 and multiple structures within the pentagon-shaped area were created, extended or disappeared. It stands to reason that some or all discolorations in the pentagon-shaped area are active or abondanded cremation sites, especially those elongated and rectangular ones (though only one on 23 August, no. 6 in the picture below, appears like the trenches at crematorium 5).

I've numbered some of the candidates for cremation sites in the 23 August 1944 here. I think it would help if you could explain again which of these you consider cremation sites under construction, levelled out and still in use (or add more that I may have missed or which are only visible on 31 May).

If I did sound not so nice in the first post here, its because it was early in the morning here ;-), I do appreciate your comments. Even if I don't agree with everything (like on the crematorium 3 smoke issue), there is some valid stuff and food for the thoughts, I did not consider before, so thanks again.

r thomas said...

Thank you for your reply I was not trying to be snarky either I thought there might have been some legitimate internet shenanigans going on. You're posting of the May and August photos is very helpful. The pits I was referring to on the May 31st photo are further west then number 3 5 & 6 and by the photo of August they are filled in. Something that interests me is that number seven and eight almost appear to be one ditch but I never thought of that is a ditch until now because the Soviet investigative Commission your sketch of the area and stated that is where the logs and branches were stored so I'm a bit confused on that. Number 9 is the only pic visible after the liberation and is still traceable to this day. The pent I was referring to on the September picture that was filled in up to that date was number 6. Also of Interest is that the security screen that runs east to west to the little white house itself on the August photo there is part of it that is dismantled. Also an interesting note on the December picture of crematorium 5 if you zoom in you can see that the two rooms between the gas Chambers and the on dressing room are heated hence no snow on that part of the roof. Also the roof around both of the chimneys are clear snow which indicates Heat. Also the rooms east of the oven rooms are likewise free of snow which means this crematorium was active with disposal of dead prisoners and the execution of political prisoners. I have come to the conclusion that the bunker 2 site was used even after the Hungarian action was over and most Scholars believe that it was closed down after that Hungarian action was taken place. Thank you for putting up with my rambling what I lack in College schooling I try to make up with independent study and close inspection of all facts thank you very much

r thomas said...

A correction on my part the security screen I was referring to at Bunker 2 was running north to south and part of it is dismantled as of August.

The Black Rabbit of Inlé said...

21.03.44 - British gov. approved-statement released by Poles [p.208f] and subsequently reported in U.S., UK, and Australian newspapers:— three crematoria with attached gas chambers, capable of processing 10,000 bodies a day are operating in Oswiecim; some 500,000 have been killed already. There are, of course, far earlier reports of gassings at Auschwitz, and even of factory-like crematoria, but this was the first occasion that the gas chambers were stated as being attached to the crematoriums.

22.04.44 - Auschwitz I, the Buna Works, and, supposedly, just the eastern-edge of Birkenau, were photographed by a SAAF recce plane at 26,000, over two runs, totalling 4 minutes. The RAF examined the photos of the Buna Works in precise detail, and with a "consideration of information from available ground sources", composed a lengthy report with a plan of the entire site [Kew: AIR 29/332]."

31.05.44 - Birkenau photographed
26.06.44 - Birkenau photographed

04.07.44 - British FO received from exiled-Czech gov. the so-called Vrba-Wetlzer's report that inc. ia. the Rosin-Mordowicz report [who didn't arrive back in Slovakia until 6 June 1944]. The report forwarded by the Czech gov. reads: "Several SS men in gas-masks then pour into the chamber through three openings in the ceiling a preparation of the poison gas megacyklon, which is made in Hamburg."

The gassing probably figures in slightly earlier documents, i.e. the various drafts, translations, vaguely cited Swiss newspaper articles and correspondence detailed here and/or p.231f [Fleming ignores many of Conway's claims and sources].

Conway's note.33 and his source pdf p.58 proves that the V-W report wasn't ready for distribution on 24 May. He also mentions a Hungarian pilot who defected to the Allies armed with a microfilm copy of the Vrba-Wetlzer. Presumably it's the defector mentioned here. The next paragraph states the defectors were taken to Foggia, which, coincidentally enough, is where the SAAF 60PR Squadron was based.

Fleming claims Allen Dulles, the director of O.S.S. in Switzerland, saw the V-W report on 22 June, and "apparently" cabled it to Cordell Hull on the 23rd, but cites no sources.

Krema II and III were photographed at least once, probably twice, possibly thrice, before the British government had heard of the "openings in the ceiling" gassing method. Whilst V-W report wasn't distributed until July, Fleming argues that information from their report was included in three separate reports on Auschwitz or the Hungarian action published in the press during June 1944. None of them suggests the GCs were attached to the Krema.

The Black Rabbit of Inlé said...

Surprised you missed this collection, Hans:
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Auschwitz_aerial_photographs_by_date
The Birkenau photo featured for "4 April" is a mistake, obvs. It's a 23 Aug photo.

Incidentally, here's an a very useful 2017 article on photos of Babi Yar. Ground disturbance is obvious on the aerial photo when you're told where to look. Perhaps Romanov can put some effort into his next Babi Yar post and identify precisely which parts of the ravine were destroyed in 1961.
https://www.academia.edu/33613585/Waclaw_Godziemba-Maliszewski

Unknown said...

Looks like a person that's retweeted Holocaust denial, neo-Nazism and anti-Semitism on Gab (has these types of people) named Robert Bowers just recently shot and killed at least 11 people (6 wounded) at a synagogue called The Tree of Life in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Thoughts?

Hans Metzner said...

"Surprised you missed this collection, Hans:
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Auschwitz_aerial_photographs_by_date
The Birkenau photo featured for "4 April" is a mistake, obvs. It's a 23 Aug photo. "

Thanks, some useful new images (I tried to search the NARA catalogue for the posting, but somehow could not find the high res. pics...)

Hans Metzner said...

r thomas,

I will prepare a separate posting specifically on Bunker 2 (which includes a possible contemporary ground photograph of the house), that should consider and address some of your points.