danny ghitis – land of os

[slidepress gallery=’dannyghitis_landofos’]

Hover over the image for navigation and full screen controls

Danny Ghitis

Land of Os

play this essay

 

Every year more than a million tourists visit the concentration camps of Auschwitz – Birkenau to pay respect to the same number of innocent men, women and children who were murdered there. Because they come and go on the same day, most travelers are oblivious that Auschwitz is located in the old Polish town of Oświęcim. Those who notice the nearby shopping mall, high-school sweethearts holding hands, and nicely-dressed families headed to church, are faced with the impossible question: how can life exist in the aftermath of such overwhelming evil? Many people are unaware of the complex history, and conflate the camp and town as a death zone that should be left uninhabited. On the other hand, many residents say Oświęcim is a perfectly normal town, claiming a clear delineation between past and present.

In Oświęcim, like in centers of tragedy around the world, symbolism is projected onto spaces and inanimate objects. Residents continually negotiate between this space and their memories under the shadow of trauma. Beyond the town, the words ‘Auschwitz’ and ‘Nazi’ are so often used in the wrong context that they lose power to evoke the horror of genocide. Over time, society becomes distanced from the original pain of tragedy, leaving only the shell of symbols in its wake, both in words and images. Simplified applications of these ideas are common trump cards in discussion of discrimination, or conversely, used as false labels for minor offenses in daily life. In the absence of substantive meaning for the symbols, it often becomes difficult for rational discussion to emerge over hallowed ground.

As a grandson of a Holocaust survivor, my decision to explore Oświęcim was personally motivated. To me, Poland primarily represented the epicenter of the Holocaust. It was once the hub of Jewish life and learning in Europe, but its population was reduced to ashes during WWII. I wanted to confront these notions on my own terms and reconsider the aftermath of the Holocaust in its present-day context.

 

Bio

Brooklyn-based freelance photographer Danny Ghitis (1982) was born in Cali, Colombia and emigrated to the U.S. at a young age. After graduating in 2006 with a journalism degree from the University of Florida, he worked at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and St. Petersburg Times newspapers. He launched a freelance career in 2008. Danny’s work is rooted in the pursuit of his own elusive cultural identity, and the desire to find common ground with others. His stories seek to reveal truths about the human condition, focusing in areas where cultural collisions interfere with progress. He believes that challenging social norms with satirical imagery can spark the curiosity needed for open dialogue in the average person. And that everyone, in turn, is capable of contributing to societal advancement.

 

Related links

Danny Ghitis

45 Responses to “danny ghitis – land of os”


  • Don’t know about this as an “essay,” but I enjoyed the slide show and all of the photos.

  • what strikes me most is that none of these images have any weight except when attached to words.
    I do not understand the approach at all.

  • Auschwitz in the background of some photos, the SS headquarters, and the tourist bus all stand alone. The rest, in context, all speak of life as normal, which I think is intended. My impression is this could be edited down to a smaller number of photos that strongly show the connection between the darkness of Auschwitz and the incongruence of life going on around it. Or it could be expanded even more in it’s present form, as “normal life” subsumes the tragedy. Additionally, I think Polish people, especially locals, would see the connections much more clearly without any need for words.

  • How could you photograph Auschwitz? There’s a horror in the very “ordinariness” of these photos it seems to me, and the ambiguity is surely more honest than any attempt to rationalize the topic.

  • I think the “ordinariness” simply reflects the passage of time. We just don’t in general have the capacity to hang onto anger forever, regardless of the horror. We are several generations of people past Auschwitz, and while it represents infamy frozen in history for many of us, it is simply where other people live…and time has moved on. The photos were simply interesting photos of a specific place to me, the way things are 60 years later.

  • In Germany, my generation has this collective feeling of guilt. (and I was born 20 years after those times, but it still is deeply inherited) – Therefore it is not easy to look at pictures of Ausschwitz.
    With the pictures here, it is like a relief for me. Seeing, that not only horror and terror comes from this place, but normal life can continue is a big piece of peace for me.

  • Solemn, solemn, powerful essay – as powerful as anything that I have seen on burn.

    I understand the approach perfectly – perhaps in part because I have a made a career of putting words and photos together and see the two functioning together as much as do different lines in a piece of music – interweaving to tell a story that much stronger than either could tell by themselves.

    Yet, I also feel that each image is strong in and of itself and would tell a story even if it stood with no words. It might be a different story than it tells with the words, perhaps, but it would be a story. And that’s what so many strong photos do that people look at without words and then say there is no need for words because the picture speaks for itself.

    Yes, pictures can speak without words, but without words they speak to each mindset differently. The same picture can tell totally different stories to different viewers, based on the viewers own experience and viewpoints.

    What the words do here is pull the words and stories into the same context for readers of different background.

    And in this case, when you put the words and photos together to bring it into one context, a simple image such as number 12 tells a hugely powerful story.

    What it says is that even though we defeated the Nazi’s and crushed their ideal, in a way, on a much smaller scale than they had hoped, they did prevail. They drove the diversity out of this place, they expelled those whom they sought to expel and, nearly 70 years later, that diversity has not returned. Those they sought to expel remain largely expelled, their memories drifting about only in the smoke of history.

    Well done, Danny Chitis.

  • My kids have been some of those tourists described in the text.. every year middle school students (age 11-13) take the train from Tuscany (not only, from all over Italy) to Auschwitz, and to Matthausen too.. I can say it leaves a deep impression.

    In the essay here I see an aspect much less known, thank you!

  • I didn’t understand about what is that slide show so I read the text. I rarely do it.

    Now I understood why polish historians fight for division of polish territory and Nazi-Germans extermination camp.

    I understand you are surprised that in Oswiecim village live people, and they have own life? Normal regular life? Yes it’s quite surprised…

    “To me, Poland primarily represented the epicenter of the Holocaust.”

    Well maybe for me United States will be an epicenter of slavery?
    Or maybe Iraq will be epicenter of greed?
    And Israel will be epicenter of amnesia.
    And Germany is epicenter of Holocaust!

    And for me the epicenter of Holocaust is in Berlin. But maybe I know some different history.

  • Thanks so much to everyone for their thoughtful replies so far. And to the Burn folks for having the chutzpah to run this work the day after Christmas. An interesting choice, I’d love to hear your reasoning…

    As to the ambiguity of the pictures, it’s something I struggled with in both shooting and editing. The city looks quite “normal” but I opted to present it pretty straight, allowing (hopefully) the oddity of its existence to carry the idea. It’s interesting to see the difference in responses between Thomas and Marcin, maybe because of their relationship to the Holocaust and Auschwitz. The physical space where the genocide took place is not a literal explanation of who the perpetrators and victims were, and still are. The thing about Auschwitz is that its now more a construct of memory than a tangible act. And it affects thousands of people, some on a daily basis and some very subtly.

  • I did’nt feel it. I have been to Poland, I have walked through the camps of Majdanek, outside of Lublin. I have seen the ovens and stacks of boots, stood in the gas chambers, felt the depth of anguish and horror that one would feel in such a place. I was overcome by the sence of death, the anguish one feels standing in a concentration camp is powerful. One can feel the loss. After reading what was written I expected to be taken back to Poland, to feel the words that you so full heartedly wrote. I was disappointed, it was not represented in such a way that the photos gave the feeling of what the written essay said…. sorry

  • Thomas.. I agree..
    And I want to add that there is nothing worst than guilt..
    And stereotypes are more dangerous than any Nazi conqueror..
    And history proves that..
    Yes, all Spaniards are not responsible for destroying south America ..
    And all Americans are not responsible for Bush’s acts like Quantanamo or Abu Grahib..
    I refuse to feel guilty because dick Cheney was torturing, water boarding innocent victims..
    And not any Turk should feel guilty about the Armenian genocide..
    But we should feel guilty if we try to FORGET.. or JUSTIFY cruel actions..
    And not every Italian should feel guilty about Roman empire.. And not every Israeli should feel guilty
    about gaza and the current palestinian abuse..
    And not every Palestinian should feel guilty about suicide bombers killing babies in Israel ..
    And not every Afghani is a Taliban .. And not every north Korean should is a terrorist…
    Governments are lame , usually abusing their own citizens…
    But our responsibility as citizens is to NOT FORGET, get educated and resist..
    Good morning all!

  • DANNY,

    if I were Marcin, I probably reacted like him. Ausschwitz was certainly an epicenter, but the decisions were made somewhere else. Poland is the name of the country today. At that time it was part of the 3rd Reich. (Actually, it was split between Germany and the Soviet Union, the German part was called Generalgouverment)

    Poland suffered very much from the Germans those days and if one listens carefully, the wounds are not closed yet. Seeing the normality for me is a relief, because that means some healing is going on. However, I am sure if you talk with the people how they think about the time and the Germans, you might get different answers.
    There are deep scars.

  • Just wanted to point one thing out: the most notorious death camps were located in Poland not due to any happy coincidence but from Hitler’s calculated understanding of the Polish people (he states this in Mein Kampf). Hitler always pushed within the accepted boundaries of what was perceived as mainstream – of what would be tolerated. He understood that the Final Solution would not be accepted in Germany, but that antisemitism in Poland was of a particularly rabid strain that would mesh seamlessly with his goals. To the degree that life can be lived normally during wartime, I believe the Polish citizens in the towns and villages nearby did a pretty convincing job of it.

  • Marcin Luczkowski…. I agree with you comment in 100%

    Best regards,

    Aga, proud to be from Poland

    ps. for some of the people who comment… do your homework, read more, check more info about the history of Poland.. In Auschwitz were killed also thousands of POLISH people (including my grandfather’s brother) not only Jews… life was NOT normal during the war for polish people… let’s not change the history… keep it real!

  • Aga, with all my respect, “pride” according to buddhism is a sin..its the mother of discrimination, mother of all wars…please be proud to be yourself, but not because you are greek, or polish, or german or a jew or whatever…Pride is what hitler used as the ultimate propaganda tool…
    wherever pride does not work, fear does..
    All be proud when you keep this earth clean and health..be proud when you helped someone or your own self…but proud??? of a country?????
    not cool!

  • Aga, my apologies. I do not mean to suggest that innocent Polish lives were not lost. Auschwitz was initially built to eliminate Polish intellectuals. However, you can’t deny that Polish antisemitism was widespread at that time and that Polish citizens were not enthusiastically involved in many of the atrocities committed. That would be to deny history. I am the daughter and grand daughter of Holocaust survivor, an Israeli born American citizen. But please don’t think that I am a knee-jerk, all-things-Jewish-centric supporter of my own people – many of whom have failed to learn the lessons of the Holocaust except as it applies to them. As humans, we are all culpable. Given the right circumstances, we will behave in predictable ways and allow ourselves to be manipulated in the name of pride, ethnicity, and xenophobia.

  • Poland is the name of the country today. At that time it was part of the 3rd Reich…
    ——————–
    Thomas , true!

  • also:

    Poland made the fourth-largest troop contribution to the Allied war effort, after the Soviets, the British and the Americans.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poland

  • Grouped by nationality, Poles represent the largest number of people who rescued Jews during the Holocaust. To date, 6,135 Poles have been awarded the title of Righteous among the Nations by the State of Israel – more than any other nation. Some estimates put the number of Poles involved in rescue at up to 3 million, and credit Poles with saving up to around 450,000 Jews from certain death.

  • Well I am off to the cemetery to dig up the dead ……..beats living for today

  • I wonder who is going to win the “I am more holocost than you” competition

  • laughing…u r right..enough with all that who killed who and who was first the israelis or the palestinians…
    how about none of the above…

  • yeah, agreed-that’s why I celebrate Festivus.

  • the egg or the chicken?
    bullshit..it was the dinosaur…that swallowed the monkey who loved fried fish…
    tired of the same conflict over and over…the “chosen ones” versus the “not so chosen ones”..
    In LA this type of behavior is called “attention whore syndrome”…

  • I find this series to be deeply compelling and important.
    It’s extremely interesting to me that the way the conversation on
    this piece has evolved here, through all the comments, seems to
    actually illustrate Danny’s point absolutely perfectly. It’s no
    irony that audiences respond the way they do, have the reactions
    they do, that differ so greatly from one another. The symbolism of
    Auschwitz, the sheer word, the images it recalls, creates a
    reaction. As someone who has spent significant time in Oswiecim
    myself, it’s certainly possible that I see this differently. It
    definitely leaves me with a lot to think about, and a lot to say.
    To me, this project is about the huge umbrella of complexities that
    is the aftermath and lingering affects of genocide. That is to say,
    I think it requires proper context, as everything of sensitivity
    absolutely does. This context does not include Iran, or Iraq, or
    Israel and Palestine in their all their current political climates.
    It does include Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda, and on and on to an
    embarrassingly long list. Genocide is unique, and has its own
    extensive designation in the study of psychology and sociology. And
    while I fully believe that humanity should not linger in the depths
    of its darkest hours, nor waste time arguing about who’s had it
    worse ((when interviewing dozens of Polish academics, the term that
    comes up again and again in the discussion of both Polish history
    and WWII in general, is “competing victimhood”)), I do believe that
    the ONLY way we can commit ourselves to not repeat history is to
    study, to constantly strive to understand it. What I see here is
    what I experienced in Oswiecim: a very very complex existence that
    is difficult to relate to from the outside. The residents of
    Oswiecim even feel that many Poles can’t relate to their situation.
    Auschwitz is the graveyard of 1.3 million people. Murdered, no less
    (which does make a difference). And whatever else we may say, it is
    NOT common to have that upon your doorstep. It is not normal. And
    inevitably, this leaves a mark. Yes, the residents strive for
    normalcy. Because what else can they do? Life moves on. It always
    will. That’s the point. It must. But the impact of Auschwitz- as a
    symbol, a name, a physical place- lingers, possibly more than any
    other in recent history. And not just with the local community, or
    national community, but throughout the world. Or at least (largely)
    in the Western world. It holds a spotlight, and that inevitably
    gets reflected upon its residents. It is, without a doubt, a unique
    position. And they negotiate with this daily, constantly seeking…
    Danny acknowledges that his initial motivations were personal. He
    acknowledges that, going into the project, he had seen Poland as
    “the epicenter of the Holocaust,” as many people do, simply because
    A) a majority of the death camps were built on Polish land, and B)
    Poland held the LARGEST Jewish population in the world (which was
    no coincidence… there were many centuries of secure and peaceful
    relations between Poles and Jews, hence why so many Jews
    established themselves there). But to me, his visual approach is
    almost academic in nature, and that seems to be conscious. He shows
    us daily normalcy, and yet you can tell something is still askew.
    Then he shows us what’s right next to this normalcy- this behemoth
    monster of a construct, whose shadow is so hard to escape. He
    easily could have sensationalized this image, as many do.
    Melodramatic photos, black and white, heavy emotions. It would be
    insanely easy. But he doesn’t. I think what’s most important is to
    keep talking about these ideas, these histories. But somehow we
    have to reach higher in our conversation and not get stuck on the
    idea of victimhood, or who had it worse, or who’s to blame. We need
    to reach for the overarching themes, the larger idea of what it
    means for humanity as a whole. How do people recover and rebuild in
    the aftermath of genocide? What is the proper way? What is left
    behind? How does it affect humanity on a variety of levels? ** The
    one correction I will throw in here is that Auschwitz was not built
    as an extermination camp for Poles. It was, from the very
    beginning, designed as the crown jewel for The Final Solution for
    the Jews. But yes, the first transport ever to Auschwitz was Polish
    intellectuals and political prisoners. This was before the camp was
    completed in construction. And yes, there were definitely thousands
    and thousands of Poles killed there alongside the millions of
    Jews.

  • A great (wordy and academic) look at this theme, called
    “Negotiating with the Dead”, On
 the 
Past
 of
Auschwitz 
and
 the
    
Present
 of
 Oświęcim.
    http://www.psychologyandsociety.ppsis.cam.ac.uk/__assets/__original/2010/08/Andriani_Manning.pdf
    And I completely forgot to say: job very well done Danny Ghitis.
    I’m impressed.

  • monkeypoint

    I will be the last who will deny polish antisemitic before WWII and After that. I know what happen in Jedwabne and many others places.
    I write my comment because like you see in statement there are words holocaust Auschwitz one word Nazi, and a few Poland, and no word Germany.
    Polish historians fight for divide this two words Poland and Holocaust because only the territory is sole thing common. And very soon and even now in US newspapers holocaust is named “polish extermination camp”
    and thats why I was so afflicted by this statement.

    I have no time to write now. I only have to add, Thomas souls not have feelings of guilt. Thomas, you did nothing wrong. If I write that Germany committed genocide I want to say that white is white. Nazi was not an aliens from the stars, it was Germany nation. But right now it have to nothing common with this country. History is history for all nations. All nations have the sin.

    must run

  • In Holland most of the WOII prison camps were reused after te war (after housing repatriated people from Indonesia). And as we are a prudent people the baracks were simply sold off . They served for instance as chicken sheds up to recently. Then last year, someone remembered that Kamp Westerbork (a kamp from which the Dutch Jews were deported) had once existed and sheds were repurchased and are now lovingly restored into a few baracks to remember. By the way, the Dutch had kept good records about the wereabouts of the Jewish population and these records fell into German hands (sheer stupidity or on purpose is disputed). You can image that this was greatly appreciated.

    In that respect one can only respect what the Polish did by keeping the memory alive, not only via monuments and remembrence days (as we did) but by keeping the places of horror intakt for all to see in order to serve as lasting memento not to commit these crimes again. The irony is that this was done under Soviet rule, and you only have to read through 1500 pages of Gulag Archipelago, to know that prison camps and death camps were also part of the fabric of everyday life.

    I think this series (but only when you read the subtext) excelently portrays the normality of life we take for granted even in the direct shadow of a death camp. But normality of life should never be taken for granted, we should always be on allert for signs of terror (or even intollerance) towards groups of people. Whether they are part of different religion, a different “race” (quotationmarks because people biologically all belong to the same race), a different political believe or a different lifestyle. We should recognise that words like nation, state, people etc. refer to arbitrary devisions, which have no prepresentation what soever in the population. I’m a mishmash of German, Italiën, Swiss, French and even Romanian genes as we all are. Hitler was proud to be a German but he had Somalians, Berbers and Askenazian Jews among in his line of heritage. And another Dutch sprayblond politician who prides himself to be Dutch and who stands intollerant towards the Muslim faith, well he has an Indonesian grandmother (and yes Indonesia is the biggest Muslim country in the world).

    So what I see in these pictures is everyday life still taken for granted……but only single man has to stand up and these ordinary people will turn themselves into slaves, and thus are willing machines which can commit the biggest atrocities. Germans, Dutchmen, Englishmen, Turks or Americans that does not matter. These pictures speak to me of vigilance, of not taking for granted liberties but to fight for them on an everyday basis, in every conversation were you hear intollerance being uttered, never to turn away, always to confront.

    Greetings, Ed Kuipers

  • wow…great work, great photographer.

  • First of all I must say that these pictures are very beautiful and the essay strongly evocative. I find this story compelling and extremely intelligent.

    On the front of Poland, Germany, Israel and the Holocaust I must say that if on the one hand I totally agree that people in general should not feel guilty for the wrongs inflicted by their parents or grandparents, on the other hand though, WWII and its atrocities are not that far in time. Only about 60 years have passed and humans are know to forget history very quickly indeed. So, if Danny is offering us yet another reminder of what has been going on in Poland during WWII and he’s putting this in a contemporary perspective through his photography, I think he is only doing good.

  • I kept going back to this essay for days and then I had a knee-jerk reaction, commented emotionally instead of thinking it through, which kept me up last night. Marcin, when I think Holocaust, I think GERMANY = epicenter and the confluence of factors and events leading to a perfect shitstorm: the humiliation of Versailles, the economic recession, Germany’s militaristic culture, it’s love of uniforms and flags and parades (many disturbing similarities in the US of A), Hitler’s bad hair style. I’m not interested in a pissing contest over who’s the biggest loser, waiving a banner of victimhood, embracing it as some identity molding cultural tic. Jews were victims then. They are now in the position to victimize. The thing that gets me, that I keep going back to, that I can’t understand or let go of, is how dispassionate so much of the Holocaust was. I can understand people getting all worked up, passions taking over, people being whipped into a frenzy, that frenzy gaining momentum, culminating in villagers brandishing knives and machetes. It’s emotional. It’s primal. It’s immediate. What I don’t get is the dispassionate bureaucracy, the architecture of the Holocaust-the logistical planning: transporting human livestock efficiently, more expedient system for gassing larger numbers, bespectacled pedantic little turds sitting behind gray desks dotting i’s, crossing t’s, moving widgets around. Ironic: that kind of banality took some imagination. Then how about after the war ended? The Jews weren’t exactly welcomed back with open arms. Maybe the international community should have put more focus and energy on reconciliation and repatriation, instead of creating a homeland on land that was already home to another tribe. Let’s face it: the Brits certainly made a mess of things on several chunks of the globe.

  • MONKEYPOINT…

    Michelle…brilliant…i am going to make you do a photography book AND absolutely force you to write one..

    cheers, david

  • “Given the right circumstances, we will behave in predictable ways and allow ourselves to be manipulated in the name of pride, ethnicity, and xenophobia.”
    -mokeypoint

    That sounds much like the USA of today, just as much as the love of uniforms, parades and flag waving that you pointed out.

  • Brian: exactly.
    DAH! I bought a one way ticket to Mexico! Leaving January 14 and making my way to the northern border.
    P.S.-today I was offered a solo show, opening in April! I would keep plugging away because I’m compelled to take these photos, but honestly, since the OBX workshop, I’ve NEVER been more focused, determined, and motivated. I hear your voice in my head. Wax on, wax off grasshopper.

  • Thanks for the brilliant reflections everyone. The variety of reactions are helping me process the work in a new light. I feel like I could respond to everyone at length (but don’t worry I wont!)

    monkeypoint – I’m sorry to hear you lost sleep over this…I also lost many nights of sleep thinking about this stuff. It’s just such a profound part of Jewish identity that it takes a lot of energy to confront. In the end living in Oswiecim was very therapeutic, and helped me see the Holocaust beyond traumatic personal impact and more as a broader human theme. Unfortunately as time passes this subject becomes oversimplified in discussion, leaving many of us with nothing but horrific black and white images on the brain…The discussion about how the Holocaust affects Israeli politics nowadays is interesting and extremely complicated, but I think it’s inappropriate to compare the Israeli-Palestinian or US-Iraq conflicts with the Holocaust. The mechanisms are entirely different. Perhaps Rwanda, Bosnia, Cambodia, etc. where millions are sentenced to death because of their race/religion…
    p.s. congrats on the solo show!

    marcin and aga – You’re right, Poland definitely suffered tremendously at the hands of the Nazis. Arguably more than any other country. The main reason being that Poland was a haven for the Jewish people for about 800 years (on and off), thus the perfect place for Germany to conduct genocide. Non-Jewish Poles bore the brunt of that trauma as it took place in their backyards, and hundreds of thousands ended up dying in the same concentration camps as Jews. There is much to be discussed, though, about how much Jews were truly accepted in Poland in the first place… In any case, Poland’s history and collective memory is so layered that past and present constantly collide.

    cttobin – Thanks for your on-point insight and for posting that link. I highly recommend that reading to anyone who is interested in this subject.

    Ed – The Soviets so-called preservation of Holocaust sites was a propaganda tool in many cases, so Poland would remember it was “saved.” Signs at Auschwitz did not even mention Jews until the 80s, despite the fact they represented 91% of the victims.

    Panos – I think pride is what often leads to irrational acts, but patriotism can be rational. The problem is when people create their own definition of patriotism and it becomes exclusionary, fervent nationalism, where your country/people are superior to others. I’m patriotic about America, for example, because of its progressive tenets – freedom of speech, equal rights, balance of power, etc, etc

  • My last comment has been written in hurry. I hope it not sounds like I have bad feelings about Germany. It is contrary. I am just not good in diplomacy. Wen I was a little I was play with my friends to polish solders (heroes brave) and germans (nobody wanted play evil Germans and they always die) after many years Poland and Germany become closest friends. I mean in all polls we like germans most from all nations. After hundreds of years of wars after WWII our best friend is our oldest enemy. What is just great in my opinion. Even if in many buildings there are still traces of bullets. I think sometimes looking back is not a good adviser. I am glad we are best friends now.

    But I will not tell anyone how he should see or feel history. Like with this essay. If it helps someone to understand something, anything, something important, I will support it with open heart. It is not my business.

    For Danny it was personal project, and I see it by subjective glasses. That’s why I did not understood the essay. The images are really good. But I just see polish village. Regular one. It could be everywhere in poland. I could say nothing special. Yes the place are not regular. But I just feel like they been used as a tool in someones fight. Fight for history.

    For most people holocaust is unbelievable trauma. The same as rwanda, turkey or cambodia and many other places.
    And for me Israeli-Palestinian or US-Iraq and holocaust are equal. It is even equal with murder during robbery. For me in Auschwitz die one million single people. I prefer think that way.

  • Danny, what can possibly be a better testimony to the strength of your essay than the fact that it kept someone up at night.

  • I’m sorry, but I agree with John Gladdy, at least until he implies that the images have weight once the words are included, which I still don’t see. Girl rides horse 15 minutes from Auschwitz? I think for this to work, the photographs would need to communicate the historical horror with no words at all, neither captions nor on signs visible in the pictures. In an essay like this, I don’t want to be told what to feel. I want to feel it through the power of the image.

  • ‘The thing that gets me, that I keep going back to, that I can’t understand or let go of, is how dispassionate so much of the Holocaust was. I can understand people getting all worked up, passions taking over, people being whipped into a frenzy, that frenzy gaining momentum, culminating in villagers brandishing knives and machetes. It’s emotional. It’s primal. It’s immediate. What I don’t get is the dispassionate bureaucracy, the architecture of the Holocaust-the logistical planning: transporting human livestock efficiently, more expedient system for gassing larger numbers, bespectacled pedantic little turds sitting behind gray desks dotting i’s, crossing t’s, moving widgets around.’

    Primo Levi’s writings are very enlightening: ‘If This Is A Man’, ‘The Periodic Table’, the essays (and also the poetry). Levi rejected the idea that the Russian Gulag and the Nazi Lager were equivalent, and considered the Nazi system unique in history. I imagine such dispassionate bureaucracy was possible because, as a result of Hitler’s relentless propaganda, youth camps, etc., Jews came to be considered worse than vermin (they had already been regarded with suspicion anyway). In the eyes of the brainwashed, they were human cattle, and so the transportation and eventual ‘final solution’ became merely logistical problems: bureaucracy bred more bureaucracy, all of which functioned as an efficient means of further dehumanisation. Not that that really explains anything at all; far from it.

  • Charlotte Salomon…..Primo Levy….Jean Avery…..anne frank…elie wiesel..paul celan’s parents…bruno schultz…irene nemirovsky…max jacob…

    how does one begin to describe…

    without mythologizing their own work in the face of the reality….

    and while anti-semitism was a large part of Poland (still is) as it is through the world, I respect that you are trying to humanize the city, to try to pull the weight of those perfectly designed horror castles and machinery off the shoulders of the land and the people still living their…to humanize the people, the poles, who too often bare the brunt of the atrocity as their town their lives are still shad0w-shamed by that work factory death house(s)…

    for that, i want to ask then: why not even avoid dealing directly with the work/death camps and instead focus only on the lives of the people living there….

    i’m still trying to figure this out (myself) as a photographer/writer…for that I applaud not only your effort and your desire to re-see that town as a town of the living rather than as a museum culpable for horror….

    but, my brain at the moment is just too jet lagged to write more…

    so much i want to write ….but i’m spent….

    so instead of a long comment, i’ll leave you with the work of one of my heroes…

    christian boltanski

    his is of course on approach….but, i also thing, another is to go the opposite…rather than memorialize, to celebrate the lives that continue, working in the shadows of those places cannot be easy for anyone…

    congratulations on being published and for producing thoughtful, sensitive work

    http://www.google.ca/images?um=1&hl=en&client=firefox-a&hs=380&rls=org.mozilla%3Aen-US%3Aofficial&biw=1436&bih=826&tbs=isch%3A1&sa=1&q=christian+boltanski&aq=f&aqi=g8&aql=&oq=&gs_rfai=

    i’ll try to write something in a few days…

  • Great series Danny. I agree with an earlier comment that
    any project that reminds us of such atrocities worthwhile. Being
    able to deal with a personal issue and make great images in same
    the process is excellent.

  • Great series Danny. I agree with an earlier comment that
    any project that reminds us of such atrocities worthwhile. Being
    able to deal with a personal issue and make great images in same
    the process is excellent.

  • Danny – I took a train from Wrocław to Oświęcim a few months ago, then walked to Auschwitz. You absolutely nailed this essay. Love it. For me, it was weird to walk through regular town life so close to hallowed ground. Whether it’s shame, guilt, sadness…something is still in the air there. It was oddly quiet at times, until you get to the museum parking lot(s). Then it’s tourist central.

    I wonder if you have an image off Wyzwolenia road of a basketball court covered over with grass?

  • yesyes.. i’m all for never-forgetting, yet something about a great effort to remember the past seems to negate the need to think about the now.. remembering a past cruelty is not really enough..
    if it is in the present that actions need to be analyzed i wonder to what degree remembering the holocaust serves to blind us from present atrocities.. the intention is to remember so that it can not happen again, yet it’s important to remember that is has happened again just as it had happened before to both greater and lesser degrees.. 60 million native americans or hundreds of thousands in the middle east.

    great set of photos which bring the heavy atmosphere of the town to the fore.. fresh approach..
    i went ‘holocaust’ in 1992 photographing the camps across poland and, as with other place-names which live in infamy, the heavy heavy air is in part due to the throngs of people drawn to feel the place where mass death occurred.
    monuments to hatred are needed i think.. no monument is greater than a decaying relic.. the ww1 trenches of verdun.. the ww11 atlantic wall stretching from norway to france.. the carcasses of russian tanks which litter afghanistan.

    i could not imagine living at oświęcim any more than any of us could imagine the terror of experiencing our species capability for hatred.
    for me, living alongside these relics is better understood through these photos.

Comments are currently closed.