Ghosts of Auschwitz

Above: Inside Auschwitz II Birkenau, on the selection ramp

“When we arrived in Auschwitz-Birkenau they opened the doors of the trucks. We were half-dead but we had to quickly stand five in a row. There was a man with a stick in his hand. With one movement of his hand he sent the people right or left. My mother, my little brother and my sister went left. I never saw them again”

- Lilly Ebert, Hungarian Jew, Auschwitz survivor

“We got out of the train and everything went so fast: left, right, right, left. Men separated from women. Children torn from the arms of mothers. The elderly chased like cattle. My mother ran over to me and grabbed me by the shoulders, and she told me “Leibele, I’m not going to see you again. Take care of your brother.”

- Leo Schneiderman, deported from Lodz, Poland

Above: Prisoners sent to gas chambers within minutes of arrival

Above: View of the women’s quarter in Auschwitz II

Above: Inside a prisoners barracks in Auschwitz II - Birkenau.
The original photo used in this collage was taken either in Auschwitz or in another German Nazi death camp in occupied Poland*

Above: View of wooden barracks inside Auschwitz II Birkenau

Above: Entrance to the gas chamber in Auschwitz I


All collages created by Alex Ayaan


* This line originally referred incorrectly to “another Polish death camp” rather than the true and correct description “another German Nazi death camp in occupied Poland”. Thank you to everybody who pointed out this error and who articulated the correct way to refer to such camps. I am very sorry for making this mistake, and I apologise to everyone who has been offended as a result. Chris Wild.

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25 comments to Ghosts of Auschwitz

  • Nicola

    The augmented photographs are an interesting idea.

    It was the floor to ceiling displays of shoes, glasses and other possessions that got me when I visited Auschwitz & Birkenau.

    Not to mention the silence because no birds ever fly near it…

  • Alana

    What an eery and moving collection. The last two in particular make the hairs on my arms stand up.

  • VonsterVon

    pretty powerful stuff. the silence thing…I’ve learned of this…eery.

  • Rich Tee

    Got to agree with the silence. I visited Easter 1997, and it was totally silent, no birds, no animals, eerie doesn’t cover it.

  • Ellen

    Very moving!

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  • Dave

    Chilling pictures! They put tears in my eyes…

  • Marcin

    Dear Editors!

    I was outraged to see one of the pictures subtitled: “… in Auschwitz or another _POLISH_ deathcamp”.
    Please be informed that not only is that sentence false but also persecuted in Poland. I would expect editors of a website meant for public education were aware of the obvious fact that deathcamp camps were conceived, built and run by the German Nazis in occupied Poland.

    Please see the whole denomination used by the UNESCO for the Auschwitz camp:
    Auschwitz Birkenau
    German Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp (1940-1945)

    In that context the only appropriate subtitle would be:
    ” in Auschwitz or another German Nazi deathcamp in occupied Poland”

  • MC

    The original photo used in this collage was taken either in Auschwitz or in another Polish death camp

    Auschwitz was in Poland, but it wasn’t Polish camp. It was German camp.

  • vento

    Excuse me ,Hitler ,Himmler Goering ,Goebbels Hess,Mengele … do they sound to you like Polish names? Auschwitz and other death camps across central Europe were GERMAN DEATH CAMPS.

  • Yanusson

    Indeed, those are horryfying photos. And descriptions of those photos are even worse. Let me cite: “Above: Inside a prisoners barracks in Auschwitz II – Birkenau. The original photo used in this collage was taken either in Auschwitz or in another Polish death camp.

    Excuse me.

    another Polish death camp???

    What the he*l is that? If you want to commemorate those victims first thing you should do is to get facts.

    Death camps were built by Germans, ruled by Germans.
    The only reason why those camps were built in the occupied Poland was because in Poland there was the largest Jewish diaspora in Europe (and second in the world - USA 5 mln, Poland 4 mln).

    When I look at those photos I feel awful. I still remember my visit to the Auschwitz Birkenau. Those huge piles of hair, spectacles, suitcases… Each of them means one victim. Horrible.

    And now I read that description…
    Get the facts, man. Get the facts.

  • Krzysztof Witkowski

    Moving pictures, however…

    I would be very glad, if subtitle under sixth photo about ‘Polish death camps’ would be changed to historically precise ‘Nazi German death camp on the territory of occupied Poland’. Many Polish citizens have been killed in these camps - apart from Jews - and such imprecise subtitle is shameful and painful.

  • Thank you to those people who have pointed out, quite correctly, that Aushcwitz and other death camps were Nazi death camps in Poland, rather than Polish. I will correct this when I have access to the post, later today, and I am sorry for the offense that this has caused.

  • brosik

    What the fu$%^&* are POLISH DEATH CAMPS??? They could be also Jewish, if you wish and if think this way. They were built by Germans, organized by Germans, managed by Germans and on ground controlled by Germans. So why they are Polish???

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  • Nigel

    Totally and utterly heartbreaking…

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  • Noni

    Glad to see that the description was fixed.

    I visited Sachsenhausen when I was 15 with several other teenagers (we were on a swimming exchange). We were a pretty raucous bunch, but were silenced by the sadness and brutality of the place the moment we walked through the gates. It dawned on me then how dangerous hate can be. My mother used to throw hateful names around when talking about people…when I got back I didn’t tolerate it any more.

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  • terry

    retronaut has apologised lets all get over it and move on…..

  • Alex

    Yes, it’s a shame when the death camps are referred to as “Polish”. The description of “German Nazi death camps in occupied Poland” has actually not fully caught on with mass media, leaving undereducated readers to believe Poland was to blame for the horrors of the Holocaust.

    Speaking of which: Poles in Chicago of the Kościuszko Foundation are holding a petition to stop this.

    The petition is precisely against calling WWII concentration camps “Polish” in the New York Times, Associated Press, Washington Post, etc. Please help better inform people of WWII history and sign the petition at

  • CFC

    Nobody believes the polish were responsible for the death camps. Don’t be so sensitive or assume that people are stupid. Everyone knows about the Nazis and that poland was an occupied country, this is not some ancient history you know. You’re sounding ultra chidish and defensive.

  • Steve

    The whole page is one of tribute and remeberance.The idea of denigrating it is shameful. Sometimes there are mistakes in editing, try to understand if you can that the mistake was not intended. But genuine.Take the time to look deep into the pictures and put yourself in that same location. Then take a deep breath or fresh air and thank your God that you did not experience it.Thank you for the montages.

  • Daniel

    These montages are pretty impressive. They connect times and spaces of the Holocaust. But there is one little mistake in the reference given. The sixth picture that shows the inside of a barack was taken in Buchenwald, a large concentration camp on german soil near the city of Weimar. It is actually pretty famous beacause it shows Elie Wiesel as a prisoner. You find more about him and the original photo here:
    Thanks nayway for the pictures. Great concept and great realisation!

  • Bill in Canada

    Thanks Retronaut, for your wonderful website and also this series. As a child of a Dutch family who lived through nazi occupation, and of a father who was imprisoned in Germany I was especially moved by the Ghosts of Amsterdam series. With this Auschwitz series you have just barely opened a door into a new way to bring back and remind us of the horrors that society is capable of. I have a book in my files listing the names and ages and details of roughly 120 family members who perished in these camps and one of these days I’ll have the emotional strength to start researching and getting to know them. Well done with the website.

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