Following the traces of the Auschwitz Death Marches 1945
Pinhole 2015


During winter 2015, on occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Death Marches from Auschwitz, I marched for four days on my own from Auschwitz (Oswiecim) via Gliwice towards Blechhammer (Blachownia Slaska) in South Poland.

In early 1945 the German SS in command of Auschwitz and his sub-camps faced the advancing Soviet Army, so on January 17 they marched around 60.000 prisoners out of these camps. They headed to remaining train stations, trying to escape in freight carriages originally designed for cattle. Some evacuation columns faced two-day walking distances, others even marched for four days, each day stage about 30km long. The prisoners, among them jews, POWs and others, were pushed on the freezing cold country roads in groups about 100 to 3.000 men and women each. Mainly they wore thin clothing, bad shoes and had almost no food supply.
Everybody who could not keep pace or tried to escape was directly executed by gunshot commandos. Some SS officers called these victims on the road „milestones of the SS“. During the few day about 15.000 prisoners paid with their life for the operation. Countless sick and week were shot in the camps, murdered on the track, others starved and froze to death on the route or in the train cars.

During end of winter 2015 I start to follow the prisoners tracks for more than 100 kilometers. I investigated the route before by scientific literature and the archives of Auschwitz. The march starts at the extermination camp AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU. The four day stages base on 1945 marches via Mikolow, Gliwice, Sierakowice to the concentration camp Blechhammer. Every stage lasts from early morning until sunset. Walking on my own, I search out historical places and situations with the pinhole camera: camps, railway tracks, forests, barns, country roads, further wayside crosses, town signs and jewish cemeteries.
Roadside ditches, bridges and small creeks make me remember the places where often corpses of the shot prisoners were dumped. From time to time, a mass grave can be spotted on the route. The final destination of the march is the BLECHHAMMER concentration camp. Here, concrete watch towers, fence posts and the old crematorium are scattered into an open forest area. Even today, they tell the stories of suffering and horror of those winter days in 1945.
My pinhole camera shows all traces somehow blurred and abstract, from a dense emotional perspective. The rough chemical development method with amorphous stains strengthens the mysterious approach of forgotten history.