Pressac, Jean-Claude. Auschwitz: Technique and operation of the gas chambers. The Beate Klarsfeld Foundation, New York, 1989. p. 422-424
Presented in 1945 as the only photographs of the extermination of the Jews, taken in August 194, they were attributed by Judge Jan Sehn in the initial publications of the Central Commission for the investigation of Hitlerian crimes in Poland and the Auschwitz Museum to the former prisoner David Szmulewski. Four photographs were taken with a camera smuggled into Krematorium V. Two were of reasonable quality (Photos 15 and 16 [PMO neg. nos 280 and 281]), one just about usable (Ohoto 17 [PMO neg no. 282]) and the last one useless (Photo 18 [PMO neg. no. 283]). The clandestine photographer had taken two pictures of corpses being burnt in the open air [Photos 15 and 16], one of naked women [Photo 17], and one of tree branches (Photo 18). [...] Having the origional photographs makes it possible to identify and precisely locate the scenes and the position of the photographer. Photos 15 and 16 were tken from the inside of a building, through an open door. The only Birkenau Krematorium possessing the three elements to be found on the two photos, a door giving onto a barbed wire fence with the birch wood in the background, was Krematorium V. In the western section there the door of the western gas chamber meeting these conditions and two doors in the north side, that of the northern gas chamber and the double door of the furnace room. A beam, the end of which is visible on the photos, supported the porch roof over these doors (not shown on drawing 2036, but visible on PMO neg. no. 20995/509). The porch roof outside the furnace room was about a metre higher than the door and was not visible from the interior, but those of the gas chambers, where the roof of the building was lower, were only just above the doors and could be seen from the interior. The line of the crown of trees inthe Birch Wood diminish from left to right, while it would have been horizontal had the picture been taken from the west end of the building. This clue together with the orientation of the shadows indicates that the pictures were taken looking northwest, the photographer being in the northern gas chamber of Krematorium V [see sketch map]. The wind, normally from the north, was blowing from the west, or more likely, northwest. As regards Photo 17, possession of the origional is essential. It shows that women are concentrated in the bottom left corner, while on the right it is possible to see the top of a Krematorium chimney which does not have the shape of those of Krematorien II and III, but those of Krematorien IV and V. The scene cannot have been located at Krematorium IV, with no trees in the immediate vicinity. Krematorium V was surrounded by birch trees. The photo was taken against the light, the south being in front of the photographer and the north behind him, with one of the two chimneys of a type IV/V Krematorium visible on the right. Given this orientation and these clues, the scene could be nowhere other than at the eastern end of an area between the south wall of Krematorium V and the line of trees bordering the Ringstrasse. The photographer was to the east of Krematorium V and the naked women were moving with their backs to the gas chambers in its western part. They were not running, but walking, awaiting their "turn." The chimney of Krematorium V, as we might expect, is not smoking. We know from David Szmulewski that the four pictures were taken virtually one after the other, with only about fifteen minutes between the first and the last. One of the open-air cremation ditches was therefore operating quite close to the north side of Krematorium V while its furnace was not working, so that contrary to the testimony of Sonderkommando men, the ditches were not in addition to the furnace but were dug to replace it, as it was out of service. The author, having determined the location of the three photographs and of the Sonderkopmmando man who took them, had a conversation with Mr. David Szmulewski at the end of 1987, and established just how the episode took place: In the summer of 1944, the Sonderkommando men asked the camp resistance for a small camera so that they could record the criminal tasks they were forced to carry out: emptying the gas chambers and incineration of the bodies. The Sonderkommando organized some damage to the roof of the gas chambers of Krematorium V and requested repairs. The internal camp resistance came into action. A "flying squad" to which Szmulewski, a member of this organization, belonged came to repair the damage. Szmulewski was carrying a dixie can with a false bottom in which the camera was hidden. Once the prisoner-repairman were on the roof, Szmulewski pased the camera to a Sonderkommando man working at the cremation ditch who had placed himself against the north wall of the gas chambers, under the roof overhang which was 2.45 from the ground. This prisner then quickly entered the north gas chamber whose door was open for ventilation purposes. There he was safe, as the room had already been emptied of corpses. Fromthe centre of this room he took photographs of his comrades feeding bodies intot he cremation ditch. Then, hiding the camera in his right hand, he emerged from the building and went along the north wall to the eastern end of the building then about 30 metres into the wood, moving parallel to the eastern end of the building, under the cover of trees. In front of the Krematorium, to the south, a group of women considered unfit to work, the next "batch", was undressing. Some of them were already naked, a little way from the others, taking a few steps while waiting. The sun was shining right into his face, through the trees lining the Ringstrasse, so there could be no question of using the camera normally, using the viewfinder as he had done in the gas chamber. From rather far away, so as not to be noticed, he took the first picture of the women by guesswork, holding his right arm against his side withthe camera in his palm. Hidden behind a tree, he wound the film, emerged and took another picture in the same way as before. The direction the lens was pointing in was difficult to judge under these conditions and he pointed the camera too high, photographing the tops of the three instead of the women [Photo 18]. Retracing his steps,he returned to the comparitive safety of the Krematorium, moving along the north wall to the gas chambers. Szmulewski was watching out for him. A quick look around, no SS. The Sonderkommando held up the camera which rapidly changed hands again [see the photograph showing the assumed path of the photographer]. Szmulewski replaced the camera in the bottom of the dixie, the repair was completed and the flying squad departed. The whole process had taken only fifteen to thirty minutes. The photos were taken out of the camp and handed over to the Polish resistance in Cracow. After the Liberation, the prisoner who took the photographs did not come forward, proabably having been liquidated after the Sonderkommando revolt on 7th October 1944, so David Szmulewski became the sole survivor of theis operation. The honor came to him and he was declared the author of the photographs, though honestly enough he always stated that he had been on the roof of Krematorium V throughout the whole episode. His friendship with Judge Jan Sehn probably counted much for this designation. After the war, David Szmulewski remained in Poland and was employed in an important post, but in 1968, one of the periodic waves of anti-Semitism swept through the Polish government and he lost his job because he was a Jew. He emigrated to France and has lived there ever since.
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