Original black and white and colorized photo of Holcoaust victim Czeslawa Kwoka.
(photo credit: WILHELM BRASSE/ MARINA AMARAL/ TWITTER)
Described as “heartbreaking,” “haunting” and “devastating,” colorized pictures of a young Holocaust victim – who was not Jewish – that were posted by the Auschwitz Memorial on Twitter last week has gone viral on social media.
The organization’s tweet described how the young girl in the picture, 14-year-old Polish girl Czeslawa Kwoka, “was murdered in Auschwitz with a phenol injection into the heart. She was deported by Germans from the Zamosc region as part of their plan of creating ‘living space’ in the east.”
To date, it has garnered over 10,500 retweets and over 44,000 likes and also generated continuous discussion and questions about what victims like Kwoka endured. Kwoka was registered as a political prisoner upon her arrival at the camp.
“According to the testimony of a survivor, Wilhelm Brasse, who took the registration picture of Czeslawa Kwoka, just before it was taken the girl was beaten by one of the guards. In the picture you can see the cut on her lip,” the Auschwitz Memorial added in a second tweet.
The photograph, which was colorized by Brazilian artist Marina Amaral, who is an expert in the colorization of black and white pictures, made the colorized version of Kwoka’s registration image, which was initially posted in black and white.
Amaral was praised numerous times for her depiction, and said in response: “The colorization of these pictures is a very effective way to reach people that otherwise wouldn’t have the slightest interest in learning more about our past.”
In the colorized version, the marks of Kwoka’s beating, which were done before the photograph was taken, is extremely visible – her eye looks as if it’s swelling, and her lip bloodied. The registration picture is also taken from several different angles – in the third photograph, she’s wearing a head scarf and looks visibly frightened.
Several Twitter users asked about the head scarf and were told that in “such mugshots one picture was with the[ir] head covered. Men were photographed in their camp hats, and women in such scarves.”
The photographs attracted the attention of human rights groups, celebrities, journalists and different people from across the world.
Noam Weizmann said that “just viewing these photos is heartbreaking, the conditions they were in were unfathomable. I see the pain in their eyes, and I just want to save them. Any photographs from Auschwitz will break me, obviously.”
For many Twitter users, it was the use of color that struck a deep chord. Elizabeth Schumacher said she couldn’t “stop thinking about the... colorized photos” of Kwoka.
“Black and white make things feel so distant and gone, absent from your senses, more comfortably digestible, a permanent object of the past that needn’t be confronted,” she wrote.
Another user, Sheila Roberts said: “A truly moving work by an artist who brings a courageous 14-year-old Holocaust victim to life for a modern audience. Czeslawa Kwoka died 75 years ago, yet these colorized photos give her immediacy and make her fate as profoundly soul-crushing today as it was then in that moment.”
In response to the attention, Amaral said she was overwhelmed and proud. “I’m seeing Czeslawa’s story being discussed in so many different countries. As I said before, this has nothing to do with my work, but the fact that I could help shed some light on her story makes me genuinely happy.”
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