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Jewish prisoners arrive at the Auschwitz concentration camp, mid-1944.German Federal Archives via Wikimedia Commons
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Wedding rings forcibly removed from prisoners and confiscated by the Nazis, May 1945.U.S. Army/National Archives
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An unidentified boy raises his arms as German soldiers capture Polish Jews during the Warsaw ghetto uprising sometime between April 19 and May 16, 1943.United States Holocaust Memorial Museum via Wikimedia Commons
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A Russian survivor of the Buchenwald concentration camp identifies for the liberating U.S. troops a former camp guard accused of brutally beating prisoners, June 1945.U.S. Army via Wikimedia Commons
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A young German woman reacts with horror as she walks by some of the approximately 800 prisoners murdered by SS guards near Namering, Germany, and laid there so that townspeople could view the work of their Nazi leaders, May 1945.National Archives
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Prisoners of the Dachau concentration camp cheer the approaching U.S. troops, April 1945.United States Holocaust Memorial Museum via Wikimedia Commons
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Very young Ukrainian nationalists (in cooperation with the Nazi SS) armed with clubs chase a Jewish woman through the streets of Lviv, Poland -- where at least 6,000 Jews were killed by militias and Nazi forces -- in mid-1941.Wikimedia Commons
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The entrance to the Auschwitz concentration camp, circa 1945.Stanislaw Mucha/German Federal Archives via Wikimedia Commons
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Some of the 2,141 prisoners just freed from their train, bound for an extermination camp, by U.S. soldiers near Madgeburg, Germany on April 13, 1945.U.S. Army via Wikimedia Commons
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Child survivors of the Auschwitz concentration camp soon after its liberation by Soviet forces in January 1945.United States Holocaust Memorial Museum/Belarusian State Archive of Documentary Film and Photography via Wikimedia Commons
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Upon the liberation of Buchenwald, a man holds a noose formerly used at the concentration camp, April 1945.ERIC SCHWAB/AFP/Getty Images
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Jewish women and children just after their arrival at the Auschwitz concentration camp.STF/AFP/Getty Images
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A prisoner dying of dysentery at the Buchenwald concentration camp peers out from his bunk upon the liberation of the camp by Allied troops in April 1945.AFP/Getty Images
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Clothes that once belonged to prisoners of the Dachau concentration camp, recently liberated by U.S. troops, April 1945.U.S. Army/National Archives
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British liberators of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp force Nazi officials to exhume and properly bury the bodies of approximately 100 political prisoners killed there, October 1945.-/AFP/Getty Images
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German soldiers arrest a Jewish man in Warsaw, Poland following the ghetto uprising that had recently occurred there, April 1943.AFP/Getty Images
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U.S. soldiers survey some of the children's barracks of the recently liberated Dachau concentration camp, April 1945.United States Holocaust Memorial Museum via Wikimedia Commons
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Nazi guards round up arriving prisoners at the Auschwitz concentration camp's unloading ramp, circa May/June 1944.Lili Jacob/Yad Vashem via Wikimedia Commons
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A starving child lying on the street of the Warsaw ghetto, as photographed by a sergeant in the German armed forces, circa 1941.Heinz Joest/Vad Yashem/National Archives
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Construction workers build the brick wall meant to block off the Jewish ghetto portion of Warsaw, Poland, 1940.United States Holocaust Memorial Museum via Wikimedia Commons
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Crowds watch as British soldiers set fire to the last remaining hut at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp soon after its liberation in April 1945.Bert Hardy, British Army/Imperial War Museum via Wikimedia Commons
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A young man sits on an overturned stool next to a burnt body inside the Thekla concentration subcamp outside Leipzig, Germany soon after its liberation by U.S. forces in April 1945.ERIC SCHWAB/AFP/Getty Images
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Prisoners of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp cheerfully collect bread rations upon their liberation by British forces in April 1945.Sergeant H. Oakes, British Army/Imperial War Museum via Wikimedia Commons
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Victims' bones lie in the crematoriums of the Buchenwald concentration camp upon the arrival of U.S. troops in April 1945.U.S. Army/National Archives
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Female guards of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp soon after their capture by British soldiers in April 1945.AFP/Getty Images
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Eyeglasses of prisoners killed at the Auschwitz concentration camp, circa 1945.German Federal Archives via Wikimedia Commons
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An emaciated prisoner of the Dachau concentration camp soon after its liberation by U.S. forces in April 1945.ERIC SCHWAB/AFP/Getty Images
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Prisoners of the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp's Boelcke barracks killed during a bombing raid, April 1945.James E. Myers, U.S. Army/National Archives
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SS commander Heinrich Himmler inspects the Dachau concentration camp, 1936.Friedrich Franz Bauer/German Federal Archives via Wikimedia Commons
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Prisoners in the concentration camp at Sachsenhausen, Germany, 1938.National Archives
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Starving inmate of Camp Gusen, Austria, 1945.National Archives
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German doctor Fritz Klein stands amid the corpses of prisoners in one of the mass graves at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp soon after its liberation by British troops in April 1945.British Army/Imperial War Museum via Wikimedia Commons
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Polish prisoners of the Dachau concentration camp toast their U.S. liberators circa April/May 1945.Arland Musser/National Archives via Wikimedia Commons
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A Hungarian prisoner of the Dachau concentration camp not long after its liberation by U.S. troops in April 1945.ERIC SCHWAB/AFP/Getty Images
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German civilians, under direction of U.S. medical officers, are made to walk past a group of 30 Jewish women starved to death by SS troops so that they may bear witness, in Czechoslovakia, 1945.National Archives
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U.S. Army soldiers prepare to summarily execute SS guards of the newly liberated Dachau concentration camp on April 29, 1945.Arland B. Musser/National Archives via Wikimedia Commons
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Circa 1936, a Romani woman speaks with a German police officer (center) and infamous Nazi doctor Robert Ritter (right), whose pseudo-scientific research on the Romani people helped cause the Nazis to kill as many as 500,000 of them during the Holocaust.German Federal Archives via Wikimedia Commons
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General Dwight Eisenhower (center, wearing officer's cap) and other high-ranking U.S. Army officers view the bodies of prisoners who were killed during the evacuation of Ohrdruf, while on a tour of the newly liberated concentration camp in April 1945.United States Holocaust Memorial Museum/National Archives via Wikimedia Commons
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Disabled children of the sort executed in the tens of thousands under the Nazis' largely eugenics-inspired Aktion T4 involuntary euthanasia program, at Schönbrunn Psychiatric Hospital, 1934.Friedrich Franz Bauer/German Federal Archives via Wikimedia Commons
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Malnourished forced laborers of the Buchenwald concentration camp near Jena, Germany soon after the arrival of liberating U.S. troops in April 1945.National Archives
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British troops force SS camp guards to load the corpses of prisoners onto trucks for burial during the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in April 1945.Sergeant Midgley, British Army/Imperial War Museum via Wikimedia Commons
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All but one of the 22 Nazi leaders prosecuted during the Nuremberg war crimes trials, October 1946.AFP/Getty Images
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Nazi leaders Hermann Göring (left) and Rudolf Hess -- both, at various points, the deputies of Adolf Hitler -- sit in the defendants' box during the Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals, 1946.STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images
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A pile of human bones and skulls lies on the grounds of the Majdanek concentration camp soon after its liberation by Russian troops in 1944.AFP/Getty Images
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A member of a German paramilitary death squad prepares to shoot a Jewish man next to a mass grave in the Ukraine. When the photograph was found in a soldier's scrapbook, the handwritten caption read "The Last Jew in Vinnitsa."
Holocaust Photos That Reveal Heartbreaking Tragedy Only Hinted At In The History Books
On January 19, 1942, Szlama Ber Winer made his escape. During transport from the Nazis' Chełmno extermination camp to the Rzuchów subcamp, the 30-year-old Polish prisoner slipped out of the lorry and into the forest.
From there, Winer made his way to the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw, Poland, where he rendezvoused with the underground Oneg Shabbat group, which had made it their clandestine mission to chronicle the horrors that the Nazis had recently begun perpetrating upon the fellow Jewish residents of their city.
At the time, of course, the group had no idea of the full extent of what they were actually chronicling.
Before Winer escaped and contacted Oneg Shabbat, the Jewish underground in Nazi-occupied Poland, let alone the outside world, had received only scattered bits of information about what was now happening inside the newly completed camps in the forests outside Warsaw — not to mention Krakow, Lublin, and much of eastern Poland.
But in his reports to Oneg Shabbat, Winer began to fill in the gaps. He spoke of Jewish deportees, including his own family, arriving at Chełmno en masse, enduring beatings at the hands of Nazi officers, then dying in gas chambers before being dumped in mass graves — step by step, like clockwork.
Under the pseudonym Yakov Grojanowski and with the help of Oneg Shabbat, Winer documented this revelatory testimony in what would become known as the Grojanowski Report, likely the first eyewitness account of the Nazis' extermination programs to make it beyond the walls of the camps and into the halls of power in Europe.
The report never traveled far enough.
While Oneg Shabbat placed one copy in the hands of the Polish government-in-exile in London and published another batch for the German people (in hopes that it would inspire in them some sympathy for the Jews), Winer's findings never seemed to have made it onto the desks of decision-makers in either Britain or the U.S.
Those two governments, on behalf of the Allied Powers, wouldn't release their first official report on Nazi extermination efforts in Europe until the very end of 1942. By that time, Winer had been dead for six months, recaptured by the Gestapo in Warsaw then shipped to Bełżec extermination camp sometime just after his last communique on April 10.
In the two and a half years that followed, some 6 million Jews and at least 5 million ethnic Poles, Soviet prisoners, Romani, homosexuals, disabled people, and others would join Winer as the casualties of the largest genocide in human history. It would be another two to three decades before most of the Western world would more or less agree to refer to that genocide as the Holocaust.
And today, thanks in large part to the pioneering efforts of people like Szlama Ber Winer and groups like Oneg Shabbat (responsible for one of the world's richest archives of firsthand Holocaust photos and documentation), we can at least attempt to make sense of what likely remains the most tragically surreal episode in history.
Aided as well by countless Holocaust photos culled from government, military, and civilian sources (see gallery above), the world can now bear witness to an event that can never be forgotten. Thankfully, these photos and others like them can be seen by far more people than Winer's pivotal yet under-read report ever could.