Institute News

Inside IWitness: "Arrival at Auschwitz: Images and Individual Experiences"

Inside IWitness is an ongoing series that will profile each activity in IWitness, along with a clip featured in the activity and a teacher who uses IWitness in his or her classroom.

In the Arrival at Auschwitz activity, students will consider the personal experiences of those who arrived on the ramp at Auschwitz-Birkenau. They will explore images from the Auschwitz Album, showing the arrival of Hungarian Jewish men, women and children in 1944, as well as listen to survivors who endured a similar process.

Students first record their initial impressions of two photos of people arriving at Auschwitz-Birkenau, including the time period, place, and activities the people are engaging in. Next, three testimony clips provide more context for both the arrival and selection process at Auschwitz and also the photographs themselves. Leo Bach and Renee Firestone describe the chaotic and frightening experience of arriving at the camp and being selected for work, and Lili Meier describes how she actually found the “Auschwitz Album,” a collection of photographs of Auschwitz, in an SS barrack just after liberation.

Now that they have listened to testimony and read secondary source text about Auschwitz, students return to the photographs they examined in the beginning of the activity and determine what new information they learned and what questions they still have. They may work in groups to determine where they could find information that would help answer their questions.

By completing this activity, students analyze photographs as a primary source, learn how testimony can be used to analyze other primary sources and are introduced to the Auschwitz Album and its historical context.