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Auschwitz photography exhibit sheds light on horrors inside the camp

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

“Today’s children, their parents, even their grandparents would not necessarily have heard of it. So that’s an important reason why I think we need to remember one of the central episodes of the 20th century,” said Paul Teverow, board member of the United Hebrew Congregation in Joplin.

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

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

“More than forty years ago, my father urged me to learn more about the era before the Second World War and to recognize the signs of the times, should they ever reappear. Although seemingly beautiful, these tranquil black and white photographs depict brutal inhumanity. This sequence of images does not claim to be a documentary. These are only the personal expression of my impressions during the week I spent in the Auschwitz 1 and 2 camps. In my photographs, I want to depict the emptiness that remains as a testimony of the humiliation, of the torture and murder of those imprisoned in Auschwitz. These are not ostentatious images that scream aloud. Instead, I let the walls and surfaces portray the utter silence that only death leaves behind,” Henriksson wrote in a statement displayed in the exhibit.

“Few people who have physically witnessed this are themselves 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 this story doesn’t mean it should go away. and he definitely noted that it’s not a documentary of any kind, but it’s documentation. It allows the walls of these camps to tell the stories that people are no longer there to tell.

Teverow says it’s something his family has always known and passed down to him.

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

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 photos I looked through, but particularly one towards the end because most of them look like almost any other prisoner of war detention camp. But then you see the one with the gas chamber doors, and that tells you it’s something different. It’s not just another version of man’s inhumanity to man. It’s an episode unique in the history of the world,” Teverow said.

The Auschwitz photography exhibit will remain at the Bicknell Family Arts Center until June 30. You can find more information about it here.