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                        Technique and Operation
                            of the Gas Chambers ©
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  The "Polish Resistance” photographs 
  Presented in 1945 as the only photographs of the extermination of the Jews, taken in August 1944, they were attributed by Judge Jan Sehn in the initial publications of the Central Commission for the investigation of Hitlerian crimes in Poland and the Auschwitz Museum to the former prisoner David Szmulewski.

Four photographs were taken with a camera smuggled into Krematorium V. Two were of reasonable quality (Photos 15 and 16 [PMO neg. nos. 280 and 281], one just about usable (Photo 17 [PMO neg. no. 282] and the last one useless (Photo 18) [PMO neg. no. 283]. The clandestine photographer had taken two pictures of corpses being burnt in the open air [Photos 15 and 16], one of naked women [Photo 17] and one of tree branches [Photo 18].

As a rule, the three usable photographs are not published complete, but just the "interesting" part is enlarged and printed with a general caption: 
  · Photos 15 and 16: “Cremation of gassed bodies in open ditches” [PMO enlargements neg. nos 277 and 278]  
  · Photo 17: “Prisoners being led to the gas chamber” [PMO enlargement: neg. no. 279];     

Photo 15  Photo 15

 Photo 16 Photo 16

Reconstruction Attempted photographic reconstitution of Photos 15 and 16 made by the author in 1984, operating inside the northern gas chamber of Krematorium V and looking northwest. The birch trees visible just behind the barbed wire fence should be ignored for they were not there in 1944 and have grown since. The dark line of the Birch wood can still be seen through them, in particular on the right. The rubble from the cleared foundations of Krematorium V was simply placed around he perimeter, so that here the overgrown rubble hides the presumed site of the cremation ditch, which was filled in by the SS before the Liberation of the camp.

  PhotoSketch map showing the positon of the Sonderkmmado man who took the photographs from inside Krematorium V in August 1944: PMO neg. nos. 280 (position 1) and 281 (position 2).  
  PhotoSketch Map   

  Translation of inscriptions:
  · Nord / North   
  · Partie ouest du crématoire V / Western part of Krematorium V   
  · Ch. à gaz / Gas chamber   
  · Chambre à gaz nord / Northern gas chamber   
  · Positions du membre du Sonderkommando lors des prises de photos /
Positions of the Sonderkommando man when he took the photos 
  · Emplacement présumé d’une des fosses d’incinération / Presumed location of one of the cremation ditches   
  · Fossé de drainage et d’évacuation des eaux / Drainage ditch and sewer   
  · Clôture barbelée / Barbed wire fence   
  · Le Birkenwald / The Birch Wood    
Technique and operation
of the gas chambers

Jean-Claude Pressac
© 1989, The Beate Klarsfeld Foundation
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