The History of Dots, Part 12
This is a detail from an unintentionally astonishing photograph made in 1944—the last line of its caption forming the basis of the title of this post. (“Click on the dots below for photos from the Album depicting events which took place at those points.”)
It is the ultimate insult to consider these dots to be dots--though to some analytical eyes this is all they were; in extreme and unutterable cases, this is what they remain.
This photograph was one of a series made on 31 May
1944 by the 60 Photo-reconnaissance Squadron of the
South African Air Force under the direction of the U.S. Army
The base data reveals that sorties were flown and
photographs made and presented from missions of 4 April, 31 May , 26 June, 25
August, 14 September, 21 December (1944) and 14 January and 15 February 1945. (See
HERE for the rest of the photographs.) The
images were evidently captured as a result of the standard method of filming:
taking pictures several minutes before and after reaching the target area to
ensure that the primary objective is actually photographed; some of the sorties
were executed to find the target, and others enabled to survey the damage done
to the target (and to also see how quickly the targets were reconstructed). The
“side” result is a record of the Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps, the
significance of which seems to have escaped notice at the time, although the
camp of Auschwitz III was indeed labeled as a “Concentration Camp” in the original.
IG (“Interessengemeinschaft”, standing for “Association of Common Interests”) Farben was a massive business concern composed of BASF, Bayer, Hoechst and other German pharmaceutical and chemical companies, whose main political benefactor was the NSDAP and whose roots go back to the very formation of real Nazi power in 1932. The basis for this mutual interest was principally the production of synthetic fuel and chemicals, but as the time pressed on that capacity expanded to many other roles essential for the functioning of the German military and the basis of Nazi power. It is not possible to understate the importance of Farben to the production of the Nazi state and the waging of the war.
After 20 years of back and forth historians have come to the
conclusion that major industries/industrialist such as Farben didn’t actually
“back” Hitler in the early days (1932/3/4) per se—that is to say that large
amounts of capital didn’t flow into the NSDAP bank accounts from Big Money
sources, though they (the every large majority) certainly did acquiesce to the
social programs of Hitler. Business in
general certainly did well under the Nazi regime before 1938. The giant bonuses for both the government and
business/industry came after the attacks and conquests beginning gin 1938—it
was at that time that these businesses rolled into the cities of the conquered
land and took the tools of industry, the raw material and any else of value to
expand themselves and to also help support the war effort. The utilizeable means of production did not
limit itself to goods: the captured
population was also put to work as slave laborers and worse. And this is where Farben really makes its
pact with the devil, as it was far and away the worst offender of putting
humanity into its industrial oil can, making expendable people all together more
so, using them as another piece of machinery; the prisoners were worked and
starved to death, and once they no longer provided some sort of value to Farben
(and etc.), they were sent to be eliminated at the extermination centers.
These workers were generally “sold” by the SS to private companies, though officially it was known as a “fee”. This practice broadened as the war grew on and the labor supply o these companies was drawn off by the army; by 1944 there were in fact millions of foreign workers doing labor in Germany itself, with companies like Volkswagen, Daimler-Benz, Krupp and Siemens taking solemn and completely lecherous advantage of the captured slave labor pool.
Back to the photograph: these “dots” were the humans who were the expendable slave worker units who were burned up like an old rag once their utility had been maximized. The official reason for this mission was to locate the Farben synthetic rubber works and petroleum plants, some 2k from the Auschwitz compound. One of the last images shows the destruction to the camps by the Nazis who were trying to hide what had been going on there as they prepared for the inevitable arrival of the Soviets (who would arrive two weeks later).
The arrows and annotations in these versions are the result of a reinterpretation of the images in 1978 by two photographic image analysts/interpreters at the DIA and did not appear of course n the originals of 1944. The arrows pointing at the "dots" were actually long lines of prisoners; there were arrows pointing to a rather long train heading off from a complex of tracks; there was the enormous barracks evidently housing a very large population within a town center; and there was the production of a fair amount of smoke from a not-small building. It is a mystery why these images--one of which actually had Birkenau labeled as a concentration camp--didn't produce a military reaction by the Allies, the question producing its own considerable amount of interpretation and study. remember now these annotations were made in 1978.) The photo does show how nestled the camps were in the town and in the busy countryside; the main entrance to the camp was (and is today) located on a busy street. The walls around the compounds remind me of the walls around the Warsaw Ghetto--if you needed not to see the obvious, you wouldn't. Except at the Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps there was also the smell.... Revisionist Holocaust deniers have actually employed these images to their own evil ends, using a feeble analysis to support the notion that the Allies didn't act on the camps because the extermination and liquidation end of it didn't exist. This would be the extreme (gamma ray) end of the spectrum of interpretation, and an ultra-violent, criminal and instantly disposable way of reading history. In Part II of this post I'll have a look at some of the positions.
[Reading list in the continued reading section, below]
a vast literature relating to these issues.
My brief consultation only included the following:
Borkin., Joseph. From The Crime
and Punishment of I.G. Farben: The Unholy Alliance
Benjamin. Less than Salves… Cambridge
Industry and Ideology: the IG Farben in the Nazi Era. Cambridge
S. Jonathan. West German Industry and the
Challenge of the Nazi Past: 1945-1955. UNC Chapel Hill
Other more directed reading:
Brugioni, Dino A. /Poirier, Robert
G., The Holocaust Revisited: A Retrospective Analysis of the
Auschwitz-Birkenau Extermination Complex, Washington DC, 1979.
Gilbert, Martin, Auschwitz
Gilbert, Martin., “The Question of Bombing Auschwitz”, in The Nazi Concentration Camps, Proceedings of the 4th Yad Vashem International Historical Conference, Jerusalem, 1984, pp.417-473
Kitchens, James H. “The Bombing of Auschwitz Re-examined”, in The Journal of Military History, LVIII, April 1994, pp.233-266.
Neufeld, Michael J. &
Berenbaum, Michael (ed.), The Bombing of Auschwitz
Rice, Randall, “Bombing Auschwitz: US 15th Air Force and the Military Aspects of a Possible Attack”, in War in History, vol.6, no.2, 1999, pp.205-229