What are the odds that a girl deported from Bilke to Auschwitz-Birkenau would be liberated at Dora concentration camp, and she would find in an SS barracks where she had been sleeping the only photographs known to exist of a selection at Birkenau, and the photographs would be of people she know from her home town of Bilke, indeed the very transport that took her and her family to Auschwitz? Of her mother and father and 5 brothers she was the only one to survive.
The Nazis forbid photographs of the killing process. Yet, it seems there was at least one exception.
In these 188 photographs we Jews stumble out of the cattle cars, dazed from the long journey, unto the newly constructed Birkenau train siding. The seem predominantly old men and women with children. They have an aspect of being disoriented and fearful, although occasionally there is a smiling face as one friend greets another.
However, the great majority look fearful, sad and apprehensive. And well might they be because statistically 50 to 90 percent of them have just hours to live.
In the background of some photographs the killing facilities can be seen--the aboveground crematoria and the fence which shields the open burning pits from prying eyes. Yet, it is clear that these facilities arise no special attention from the crowd.
The milling Jews are unaware of the extent of the danger they are in. Even while lounging in the sparse birch forest outside the gas chambers (the birch trees which gave Birkenau its name) waiting for a place within the people look merely apprehensive and uncomfortable. They show no knowledge of their fate.
Except in one photograph there is a distraught old woman. She stands with the killing facility just behind her. She is being bodily led by 3 men, and 4 SS are closing in in the distance. Perhaps, the men thought she endangered not only herself but the others as well. Probably, the SS will take her aside and finish her out of sight of the others with a single bullet in the back of the neck.
The SS promised the thirsty travellers a drink after the showers. They are kept thirsty on purpose, it is part of the psychological manipulation.
Above all there are the beautiful children. Often they look directly into the lens. Well groomed or barefoot they have no chance of surviving. There is no mercy in the kingdom of Auschwitz.