Sunday, January 13, 2019

Smoke Over Birkenau in 1943

A reader of this blog called to our attention a ground photograph from the album of the construction offices in Auschwitz showing plums of smoke rising above Birkenau and wondered if it could be "smoke from bunker 1 and 2".

Yad Vashem Archives, Photo Archive, album FA157/74, item 46043

The photograph was taken from about 500 m South-East of Auschwitz Birkenau with view on its South-East corner on the left and the main entrance gate on the right.


Crematorium 3 seems to be visible on the far left of the picture, which was completed in 1943.  According to a document in Bartosik et al., The Beginnings of the Extermination of Jews in KL Auschwitz in the Light of the Source Materials, p.175, the vegetable storage houses in the foreground was still under construction in July 1943. Hence, the photograph was probably taken in summer 1943.

Origin of the Smoke

While the direction of the smoke could roughly correspond to the locations of Bunker 1 and Bunker 2 extermination sites, it is presumed that those sites were not in operation anymore in summer 1943 as the crematoria took over the extermination. Open air cremation might have taken place in August 1943 especially at crematorium 5 (see Open-Air Cremations in Auschwitz, August 1943). The exact origin of the smoke on the photograph seems unclear. Other than from cremation, it could be smoke from the chimneys of kitchens, delousing facilities or a narrow gauge railway transporting material to construction sites.


  1. Why do those people pictured there look so dark skinned? With the exception of the man at the very bottom left, they look like full-blooded Africans

  2. There don't seem to be testimonies confirming the use of the Krema 5 yard b4 the H. action. While the same is true for the Bunkers in this time period, such incinerations would arguably be more visible to the inmates than the ones taking place at the Bunkers.

  3. True. So would the excess gassing victims in August 1943 likely have been incinerated at the Bunker sites, which might have been captured on this photograph?

  4. No smoke on these photos taken in a similar position a week-or-two earlier. Asides, that is, from the zig-zaggy "smoke" above the chimney of Krema III—kinda looks drawn on.

    Album Number:
    Item ID:

    Here's the probable culprits for your *thin* plumes of smoke.

  5. I'm surprised nobody has came on here to dispute your claim but it isn't a small wisp of smoke and if it was taken a few weeks earlier in July of 1943 there was no Jewish transports at all sent to birkenau for extermination at that time. I'm calling on the bloggers on this site to stand up to this denier no matter how smart he thinks he is and at least reply to his remarks

  6. > Here's the probable culprits for your *thin* plumes of smoke.

    Already on this photo the smoke disperses almost immediately, whereas on the photo in question the smoke plums are many meters long.


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