The Holocaust Historiography Project
Auschwitz, by J.-C. Pressac
The first two photographs (Photos 15 and 16) were never retouched, unlike the third (Photo 17), three different versions of which are known to the author:
1. The original [PMO neg. no. 282 and its enlargement, neg. no. 279]
2. First retouched version (minor retouches only: reference not known):
3. Second retouched version. the “exhibition photograph” hung on the first floor of Block 4 ("Extermination"), opposite the cutaway plaster model of Krematorium II (Photo 17a [PMO neg. no. 252a])
The major changes made to Photo 17 are to be found on Photo 17a:
· The attribution of faces to the three naked women, whereas they are totally indistinguishable on the original, each of the three bodies received a distinct face, with the lighting matching that of the rest of the picture:
· Transformation of their bodies, those of OLD women (thus unfit for work and destined for gassing and cremation) into those of YOUNG women (thus fit for work, so they should not be there, an embarassing contradiction which escaped the “retoucher"), their breasts. fallen on the original. being lifted and redrawn.
What is more, contrary to popular belief. the women are not “running towards the gas chambers”, but are waiting to enter them. The two on the left are taking a few steps and the one on the right is walking normally. The location of the scene makes it possible to state that the western part of Krematorium V, containing the gas chambers, is BEHIND them, not in front.

This “enhanced” photograph has caused considerable emotional havoc, the results of which can be judged from three extracts from Excursion: Auschwitz-Birkenau by Andrzej BRYCHT (NRF Gallimard, Paris 1980, pages 37, 54 and 79). They show the extraordinary intellectual confusion of an intelligent man, certainly far more lucid than most visitors to the camp. First of all, he evokes the history of the photograph:
“One day they (the Germans] undressed three hundred girls come from France or I don’t know where exactly, they gave them a piece of soap each and one towel for ten girls and chased them between pyres soaked with petrol as high as houses, telling them that that was the way to the showers. But this wooden ravine had no exit and when the naked girls got to the end of the defile, well-hidden Germans caught them with flame-throwers and everything was burnt.”
Then, seeing the famous photo (17a) on the wall, he described it:
“On the walls of other rooms there were huge enlargements: they had thus immortalized these three hundred girls burnt alive at the very moment when the fire was about to devour them. Tall, white girls, three or four in the front rank, gracious, their hair clearly standing out against the grey streaks of the flame-throwers.”

Photo 17 Photo 17

Photo 17a Photo 17a

Photo 18 Photo 18

Photo 18a

Attempt to reconstitute the route taken by the Sonderkommando who took photos 17 and 18 outside Krematorium V, after having taken the first two inside the building.

· O / West
· route circulaire / Ringstraße
· Birkenwald / Birch Wood
Photo 18a