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I took these photos at Auschwitz II -Birkenau in November 2007. I never really intended to share them publicly or professionally. I kind of thought of them as a personal document of an experience I will never forget. A kind of memorial to the artists and writers and rebels and ordinary people I grew to know and love and grieve for in books and movies and histories of the Holocaust.
But I heard on the evening news that 41% of Americans don't know what happened at Auschwitz. They don't know that Auschwitz was an extermination camp. They don't know that over 1 million Jews were murdered there by the Nazis during WWII, along with over 200,000 gypsies, homosexuals, Catholics, Poles, and political prisoners.
Only a few of the housing barracks remain and the beds are empty. The gas chambers were destroyed. The crematoriums are rubble. But even on a cold, desolate, snowy November day such as this, Auschwitz feels crowded. The dead are everywhere. You can feel their spirits in the air. You step on their ashes everywhere you go.
I will remember that heaviness as long as I live. And I just thought that if there is even a chance one of my photos could make a difference, then it was time to share some of them.