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.
Back then I had to stop my work because of camera batteries. This year I had to stop many times because of the strong feelings inside me. I came prepared with all the extreme survival equipment I normally use to cover ski jumping. But nothing prepares you for the feeling you get from Auschwitz-Birkenau, especially when you remember that the victims had nothing to protect them. Many didn’t survive a single night.
It’s impossible to capture the real nature of places like the crematoria. I was asking myself what be a “good” picture from this place. I decided to be as simple and quiet, and with as much respect for this place as I can. It is a part of the dilemma of how to be artistic in place like Auschwitz. In my opinion you can only show emotions from an artistic point of view but you can’t just look for an artistic angle as a form or composition.