Photographers' Blog

Soccer and History

By Tony Gentile

It’s not the first time I have covered an international sport event and a soccer tournament. I was in Germany for the FIFA world cup in 2006, in Austria and Switzerland for Euro 2008 and now I’m covering Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine. Every time, I’ve followed Italy’s soccer team. It’s a interesting job but sometimes it can be repetitive. You spend about one month with the same people, your photo and text colleagues and the players. Everyday you cover a training session and news conference and travel around the country to cover the matches. C onstantly you have to try to find a different picture as well.
But sometimes something different turns up, in Poland we left soccer briefly and turned to history.

Like other national soccer teams, Italy also visited the Auschwitz former Nazi death camp in Oswiecim.

For me it was not the first time in Auschwitz, I had been there in 2000 to do a short movie with some students and I remember it as a shocking experience. Hundreds of people walking in the camp transform the area into a touristic place, but only when you concentrate your ear on what the guide says and see, for example, the shoes of thousands of babies killed by the SS a shiver runs down your spine, you start to feel part of the history, especially if the guide is a survivor of the Holocaust.

And this happens every time you go there. It’s understood that normally photojournalists can be cynical and that’s quite true, but Auschwitz is the one place where you cannot forgot what happened just 60 years ago.
This held true even for the younger players who are often not interested in what happens outside their world.

But besides the personal interest, I also had to work and try to get good photos to tell the story. When they arrived through Auschwitz’s notorious gate under the sign “Arbeit Macht Frei” instead of concentrating my attention on single players, as did many others photographers, I took a wide picture including the iconic death skull at the entrance of the camp.

The view from Auschwitz

By Kacper Pempel

Each year we cover at least two main stories from Auschwitz. The first story is at the end of January when there are ceremonies to commemorate the liberation of the death camp by Soviet troops in 1945, and the second story, which happens around May, is called the “March of Living”.

This year the 27th of January marked the 67th anniversary of the death camp liberation by Soviet troops. The ceremonies were subdued, with fewer officials coming than I was used to. So I decided to cover this time in a different way. Not only as a document from the anniversary but from a more emotional point of view.

My first visit to the Auschwitz-Birkenau museum was 7 years ago. I was overwhelmed with emotion. I tried to hide behind my camera and only focus on pictures but it was impossible. I never expected what I saw there, because it is impossible to be prepared for these kinds of views and imaginations which this place develops. I was walking around the museum in Auschwitz and then in Birkenau the whole day and I remember that I was losing power in batteries because it was minus 20 degrees C (-4 degrees F). My fingers where completely frozen. When I came inside the barracks in Birkenau and saw the bunks for prisoners I couldn’t imagine how anyone survived during winter time.