Auschwitz Photography Exhibit highlights horrors from inside camp

PITTSBURG, Kan.–While the horrors of the Holocaust may seem like a distant part of history, it was less than a century ago. Some members of the Jewish community say they want to see more awareness.

“Kids today, their parents, even their grandparents wouldn’t necessarily have heard that much about it. So that’s one important reason I think we have to be reminded of one of the central episodes of the 20th century,” said Paul Teverow, a Board Member at the United Hebrew Congregation in Joplin. 

Pitt State’s Bicknell center is hosting a limited Auschwitz photography exhibit, showing what remains of the camp.

Photographer Örjan Henriksson says the photos, taken in black and white depict brutal inhumanity. He claims these images are not meant to be documentaries, it’s his personal expression of impressions he made while spending a week at Auschwitz camps one and two.

“More than forty years ago I was urged by my father to learn about the time before the Second World War and to recognize the signs of the time, should they ever emerge again. Though seemingly beautiful, these black and white tranquil photographs depict a brutal inhumanity. This suite of images makes no claim to be a documentary. They are only my personal expression of my impressions during the week I spent at Auschwitz camps 1 and 2. In my photographs, I am wanting to portray the emptiness that remains as a record of the humiliation, torture, and murder of those people imprisoned in Auschwitz. These are not ostentatious images that scream out loud. Instead, I let the walls and surfaces depict the total silence that only death leaves behind,” Henriksson wrote in a statement displayed in the exhibit. 

“Not a lot of people that physically witnessed this, themselves are alive to tell their story”, said Shawna Witherspoon, Client Services and Gallery Coordinator for the Bicknell Center for the Arts. “Just because they’re not here to tell us that story doesn’t mean that it needs to just disappear. and he definitely made a note that it’s not a documentary of any sort, but that it is documentation. He’s allowing the walls of these camps to tell the stories that the people are no longer here to tell.”

Teverow says it’s something his family was always familiar with that was passed onto him.

“I grew up in the shadow of World War Two”, Teverow explained. “My father was a veteran. My mother worked in a munitions factory. They knew they had heard all about what was going on in Germany and then in the occupied countries. so i grew up hearing about that oh, we’re 80 years away.”

Most striking for Teverow, was one of the final images in the exhibit, an entrance to the gas chambers.

“I was particularly struck by all the photographs as I went through, but particularly one towards the end because most of them look like almost any other detention prisoner of war camp. but then you see the one with the doors to the gas chamber, and that tells you this is something different. This isn’t just another version of man’s inhumanity to man. this is a unique episode in world history,” Teverow said. 

The Auschwitz photography exhibit will remain at the Bicknell family center for the arts through June 30th. You can find more information about it here