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The Photos Are Saved at Auschwitz-Birkenau

(Reposted to this site on 2/11/2004)

The following account comes from an Auschwitz survivor. Unlike other accounts, I have not been able to independently substantiate this testimony, but I include it because of the important facts it discloses and the high likelihood that the story is true.

When you mentioned the pictures, a light went on in my head. I was in the Under­ground in Auschwitz , and one night, I heard people talking about the pictures.

Somebody said, “This is the last large transport of Polish Jews coming to Auschwitz . The other ghettos are already destroyed. Whatever can be salvaged from these people-pictures, documents, any evidence of their lives-we must try to salvage it.

The Jewish Underground contacted the girls who worked in Canada.* Many of them were our girls from Bendin and Sosnowiecz, like Lola Drexler

The Germans wanted us to save everything that could be of use to them.

Documents were sent to the Political Section-Section 4-which was Eichmann’s section.

Photographs were taken away and destroyed.

The clothing was sorted and sent off to Berlin . The Jewish children’s clothing went to the German children. They checked for money in the clothing, because usually

jewels and money were sewn into the hems. We found gold pieces in the pockets. Sometimes we even found whole buttons made of gold pieces.

Money was put together-English pounds, Swiss francs, French francs, American dollars, gold coins, nice jewelry-this all was sorted and put together accord­ingly. Then it was sent to Berlin , that is, after the SS filled their own pockets with gold.

Anyway, the girls from Bendin started collecting pictures from the liquidation of the ghetto, and it was in this way that the pictures were saved from destruction. They were hiding pictures from our ghetto! / don’t know exactly where they found a place to conceal so many pictures. Maybe they put them in a lot of places, / don’t know.

To save the pictures, someone had to smuggle the pictures out of Canada and put them in a safe place. /t was a very dangerous operation. Even if you looked the wrong direction in Auschwitz , you could be killed. For saving the pictures… Don’t ask! So they were given to a very brave leader in the Underground. His name was David Schmulevsky.

I believe David Schmulevsky was probably the first Jew in Auschwitz . He came with the Spanish Revolutionaries to fight the Fascists.**

This group was brought into Auschwitz in 1940, right after the camp opened up, maybe 28 or 29 people, and David Schmulevsky was probably the only Jew

He became a big leader in the Auschwitz Underground, and had a lot of influence. He worked as a roofer, so he could get in all over.

This man was a genius, how he planned, how he organized, how he put himself in danger, how he got himself out from danger.

He survived Hitler and went to Paris later. He is dead now already some years. When you talked about these pictures, I knew these are the pictures hidden by David Schmulevsky.

Photo Accuracy: A Philosophy and a Practice

This book is true, even if some of the facts are not. I care deeply about accuracy, and have taken great pains to insure that what is printed about these photographs is as accurate as I know it to be. But there will inevitably be mistakes, since many who knew the truth are already dead, and people remember events in different ways. In the case of conflicting data, I have tried to choose the identification or story that seems most likely to be true. For example, when information from a close relative differs from that of someone else in the town, I have given preference to the closer relationship. Any errors or omissions will be corrected in subsequent editions.

Although content has not been changed, minimal syntactic modifications have been made to quoted texts for the sake of clarity. For example, “I put on the stamp with my tongue” has been simplified to “I licked the stamp.”

I have made a practice of validating the identifications two and three times over, using accounts of multiple survivors whenever possible. Survivors are the best and most important source of information to me. I have also used the vast resources of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington , D.C. , Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, YIVO in Manhattan , and a host of other regional and national research centers.

In recording the survivor accounts that accompany the photos, I have chosen to privilege the truth of the survivors’ experiences above all else.

*”Canada” referred to the collecting warehouses in which the confiscated possessions of the Jews were sorted and stored, before being shipped off to Germany. The name is derived from the North American country known for its rich natural resources.

**Refers to the Spanish Civil War of 1936. Schmulevsky went to Spain with other Jews, including Chaim Goldenstein, the famous Yiddish Romanian writer, to fight against Franco.