Editor’s Note: 2015 is the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the largest of all the concentration camps established by Nazi Germany in World War II. Located in Poland, in its heyday, 10,000 Jews a day were gassed to death there, while others, all of whom arrived in boxcars made for cattle, were forced into slave labor. Birkenau, another infamous concentration camp, is actually only a field away from Auschwitz, and is so named because of the birch trees in and around it. Approximately 1.2 million Jews were murdered at Auschwitz.
Louis Zoellar Bickett, one of our Lexington correspondents, took series of photographs at Auschwitz in 2009, some of which we are publishing this month. Photography, as a medium, may still powerfully render documentation, and we believe that its documentary role will continue indefinitely, regardless of whether the images are digital or darkroom generated. And since photography is the fastest growing of all art mediums, AEQAI contributes these photographs of Bickett’s, so our readers can see their documentary nature and intention. The infamous gate at the entrance of Auschwitz, which translates as “work will set you free” still dominates the camp, and Bickett has a number of them in his series of images.
In a particularly moving and powerful set of images, Bickett has photographed what I presume to be young Israelis proudly carrying their flag through the streets of Auschwitz. The symbolism is incredible: every Jew in Europe, with a few exceptions, was forced to wear a Jewish star on the outside of their clothing, and in the concentration camps. These grandchildren of survivors return to Auschwitz proudly waving the Jewish star, which is the flag of Israel: they are the remnants mentioned in the original Old Testament, in a manner of speaking. Since the remaining survivors of the Nazi concentration camps are now in their mid to late eighties and nineties, such photographs take on a meaning and a finality of the end of the most barbaric period in recorded history, and remind us of one of the tenets of contemporary Judaism, “Never Again”. These photographs bring those words to mind, and also are a reminder of man’s ongoing inhumanity to man, and of “ethnic cleansing” occurring all over Africa, and the Middle East, and, in the 70’s in such places as Cambodia, and in the former Yugoslavia in the 90’s. The rise of international terrorism makes photography’s role in documenting ethnic hatreds as important as any art form can possibly be.