This was in incredible day spent exploring the two sites, humbling, harrowing but something everyone should see at least once in their life…. even stood there in Birkenau looking along the platform site back at the gatehouse its impossible to comprehend the scale of what happened here. Walking through the gas chamber and accommodation, photographic and cell blocks was chilling and incredibly emotional and the sheer size of the site, especially Birkenau, was overwhelming. Even after almost a full day of walking and exploring I doubt we saw half of it.
It was a very low striking hazy sunlit morning so I shot both sites in black and white to try and capture the atmosphere and some of the striking shadows and lines.
At its peak of operation, Auschwitz consisted of several divisions. The original camp, known as Auschwitz I, housed between 15,000 and 20,000 political prisoners. Those entering its main gate were greeted with an infamous and ironic inscription: “Arbeit Macht Frei,” or “Work Makes You Free.”
Auschwitz II, located in the village of Birkenau, or Brzezinka, was constructed in 1941 on the order of Heinrich Himmler (1900-45), commander of the “Schutzstaffel” (or Select Guard/Protection Squad, more commonly known as the SS), which operated all Nazi concentration camps and death camps. Birkenau, the biggest of the Auschwitz facilities, could hold some 90,000 prisoners. It also housed a group of bathhouses where countless people were gassed to death, and crematory ovens where bodies were burned. The majority of Auschwitz victims died at Birkenau. More than 40 smaller facilities, called subcamps, dotted the landscape and served as slave-labor camps. The largest of these subcamps, Monowitz, also known as Auschwitz III, began operating in 1942 and housed some 10,000 prisoners.
During World War II more than 1 million people lost their lives at Auschwitz. In January 1945, with the Soviet army approaching, Nazi officials ordered the camp abandoned and sent an estimated 60,000 prisoners on a forced march to other locations. When the Soviets entered Auschwitz, they found thousands of emaciated detainees and piles of corpses left behind.