“The most savage of human kind are the most advanced” Bangambiki Habyarimana
What shocks you initially about a visit to the Nazi death camp in southern Poland is the banality of the place. A banality that belies its infamous place in history as the final resting place of 1.5 million murdered souls. A pool table flat landscape is punctured by rust-coloured brick buildings and a few solitary wooden sentry towers. An intermittent sunny sky adds to the ordinariness of the place. But nothing ordinary happened here. What is extraordinary about the Nazis’ “final solution” was the precision given to the planning, implementation and industrialisation of death. On a massive scale. Cold and concise thought went into the extermination of Jews, Poles, Gypsies, homosexuals, and various religious and political communities the Nazis deemed unworthy of life. Or, indeed, dignity when living. One of the many times my blood ran cold, when visiting Auschwitz, was entering Block 11. Here prisoners were made to stand, four at a time, in a cell smaller than a telephone box – sometimes for weeks or months on end – in suffocating total darkness. There is no language to communicate the horror of block 11. Then came my visit to the gas chambers: Silence is the language of such places.
It took me a while to “process” my visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau and even longer deciding if I should process my photography documenting my visit. I had posted a couple of shots on Facebook but quickly realised the platform was inappropriate and deleted them. I had also “processed” the shots from RAW files taken with my LGG4 mobile phone. I worked on the aesthetics of photography – cropping? Black and white? Or colour? Tints? Trying to prettify my images seemed sordid in the extreme. I stopped and considered the most appropriate way to bear silent witness to the victims of the holocaust. I now publish a selection of my photos below as I shot them. RAW. 16:9 format. No cropping. No retouching. No adulteration. Just observance.
We are living in dangerous times. Crypto-fascism is on the rise again. Trump and Brexit are manifestations of the banality and reemergence of unthinking thuggery. The possibility of today’s thuggery leading to the the death of innocent millions may seem far-fetched to many. Think again. “The people can always be brought to the bidding of their leaders. All you have to do is tell them that they are in danger of being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger.” Hermann Goering. Sound familiar?