The Sonderkommando Photos

In the Nazi-occupied Europe, the Sonderkommando were special groups of Jews (and sometimes Russian prisoners of war) who were isolated from their fellows, and forced to carry out the atrocities: they emptied the gas chambers of bodies; they cremated, buried or ground the bodies. Since the Nazis did not wish the Sonderkommandos’ knowledge to reach the outside world, they regularly gassed the Sonderkommandos too and replacing them with new arrivals; the first task of the new Sonderkommandos would be to dispose of their predecessors’ corpses. Conscious of their fate, Sonderkommandos sometimes rebelled, but their most significant act of defiance came in the form of four photographs that came out of Auschwitz in August 1944.

In 1943, the commander at Auschwitz, Rudolf Hoss forbade the photography inside the camp; signs were posted outside warned ‘Fotografieren verboten! No Entry! You will be shot without prior warning!’ However, two photographic laboratories operated inside Auschwitz for archival reasons: photographs recorded torture, executions, and experiments, and Hoss was even able to present the minister of justice with an album of Auschwitz pictures. However, of one and a half million surviving photographs related to the concentration camps, only these four depicted the Nazis’ assembly line Holocaust in action. It was unclear how the Sonderkommandos smuggled a camera in (there were competing stories, but generally thought to be smuggled in with food);  the film was known to be smuggled out in a tube of toothpaste to the Polish Resistance. The pictures were sent to Krakow, but not to the Polish government-in-exile in London. They were, however, used in the Krakow trials for Nazi Crimes in Poland.

Frequently cropped and altered to highlight their content, it is possible to identify and precisely locate the scenes in the photos; the photographer apparently hid inside a crematorium doorway (Krema V) and took the photos secretly from the hip area. Only first two frames showed open-air incineration pits; the third is largely comprised of branches, except for group of women prisoners who appear in various states of undress at the bottom corner (zoom). The remaining image – also ill-composed – shows only sunlight and trees.

29 thoughts on “The Sonderkommando Photos

      • Yes.

        Btw, there were also non-Jewish Verbrennungskommando prisoners burning bodies sometimes, inclding non related to the camps:

        This one is posed after the liberation:

  1. I think it should be pointed out that it has now been confirmed the pics are doctored shots from the 1912 Ohio train disaster. It´s all just a scam.

  2. 50 passengers were injured in the Ohio Train wreck of 1912 and no one was killed. Clearly this is not what is depicted in these historic photographs. The courage shown by these death camp photographers is amazing. To try and belittle their brave efforts is a sad attempt to alter the truth. History cannot be changed. There is no “scam” here!

    • Headline of the Potsdam Herald Recorder 1912-12-27

      Ashtabula, Ohio Train Wreck
      December 1912

      7 KILLED, 7 INJURED, AS TRAIN HITS CAR

      The scam here is quite simple for anyone to see. Take the shot with the ape-armed man – too bad the creators of a lot of these pics do not have the slightest knowledge about anything – zoom in on the things at his feet. As long as you do not subscribe to the notion that Pablo Picasso drew his cubistic portraits from reality, you might realize that somebody has been at work here with a pencil. Whatever it is the ”artist” tried to show, it’s ridiculous; four-elbow man wading through a field of Picasso aliens.

      In a court case, you need proof. With these ”photos”, you’d get thrown out of court in the first five minutes.

  3. nein!
    in der Sonderkommando ware NUR judisches orthodox leute!
    das ware ein befehl angekommen direkt der Lagerfuhrer und der Politische Abteilung in der Stammlager Auschwitz!!
    es war nur ein par mahl mit hilfbrigade andere judisches leute in!nur fur der leichen rausholen der gaskammern und der feuer schmeisen!!
    ich ware da wie eine haftlinge jude aus ungarn deportiert werden am mai 1944.
    unsere baracke war ungefähr 25 meters in der Krema n° 4.
    wir konnen alles sehen horen usw!

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