All photographs copyright
© Alan Jacobs.

The Unloading Ramp

The virtual film opens to view of a brick building used to delouse prisoner's uniforms as louse-born diseases were rampant. Just to its right is a road called the "Mittelstrasse" that ran the entire width of the camp. As you scroll right the SS orderly room on the Ramp comes into view. Along its length, the road to the right leading to the two largest gas chambers and crematoria in any camp, KII, KIII. The [link] is to an SS photo taken during the Hungarian "aktions" in May, June, 1944.

Scrolling further to the right you see the brick barracks of the second half of the women's camp BIb. A bit further on to the far end of the ramp are ruins of Krematorium II, the Memorial and the ruins of Krematorium III all hard to view here. Scroll to the right and notice the vast expanse of the BII with its many sub-camps, first BIIf,e,d, the other part of the Mittelstrasse, and then BIIc,b,a (see map). BII - consisted of 7 separate camps, including those for men, women, and two “family camps”. Continuing to scroll right you come to the camp entrance, and to the right of the ramp, the front section of the women's camp, BIa. All one need do to glimpse at the scope and vastness of the Nazi plan for extermination is stand at this spot and look round in all directions.

Immediately after disembarking from the trains, the Jews, and others, were made to line up in two columns: women and children in one, and men in the other. Next, SS physicians separated the strong and healthy people from the elderly, the sick, pregnant women, and children. Those regarded as fit for labor were sent to the camp. The others, usually 70-75% of each transport, were sent to their deaths in the gas chambers. See SS photo: [link], and also [link]. Contemplating the scenes in these links, one is impressed with the Janus-like moral contradiction revealed in requiring medical doctors to make these "selektions"... one face, a healer, and the other in the opposite direction, is a murderer.

Pause on the first photo. One captures a moment, an SS physician sending a woman with a baby in her harms to the gas prompting a question yet to be answered. "What are the forces at work in the world, not just in "them", but in us as well, that conspire to give this man standing here, at this frozen instant in time, in this place... such power? And what of all such moments from that time to this day?

For album of photos taken by SS of selections on the Ramp in the spring and summer of 1944 see Israel's memorial and research facility, Yad Vashem's, web site: [link].