In parts one and two I covered Soviet manipulation of photographs. The USSR was not alone in deceptively using photography to promote a narrative.
Consider the following photograph. It is one of many pictures featuring liberated Jews behind a barbed wire fence. There are so many photos like this that people actually associate barbed wire with the Holocaust. This is no accident. There is no reason those kids had to pose behind a barbed wire fence, they had been liberated. This photo and photos like it were obviously staged in order to that the public see the camps in the way the Allies wanted them to be seen.
Warren B. Routledge’s book, Elie Wiesel, Saint of the Holocaust—A Critical Biography, contains an example of Elie Wiesel deceptively using a photograph for political purposes.
The following photograph of a crowded barrack in Buchenwald is well known and well circulated. It was first published in 1945 by the LA Times. According to Routledge, “This photo, showing inmates, some emaciated and half-naked, crammed into crude bunks, was not taken on the spur of the moment on April 11 [the day the camp was liberated], but was one of a larger group of about a dozen photos in which professional montage and mise en scène techniques were used.” (page 152) There is no reason to believe the scene in this photo was organic and just happened to capture a man standing around naked holding his clothes in front of him. I will also take this opportunity to remind you that the people under German control were starving because because the Allies had bombed food supplies. Something they never like to bring up, especially when presenting you with photos of starving Jews.
When the photo was originally published in 1945 it did not name any of the men in the photo. Almost 40 years later, in 1983, the New York Times printed Elie Wiesel’s claim that he was in that famous photograph. Below is a picture of Elie after the war and the person Elie was claiming to be:
Below you can see that the Chicago Tribune also printed the same claim in 1987, but with a ‘mistake’. In the caption is says that the photograph is from Auschwitz instead of Buchenwald. And the photo was not taken by a German. Oopsie! Perhaps this ‘mistake’ was made because Buchenwald doesn’t have the Holocaust brand recognition that Auschwitz does.
Wiesel’s claim was never fact-checked and continues to be repeated. The following image is from an article that was issued in 2016.
You may ask if there is any reason to doubt Wiesel’s claim. Besides the fact that he waited almost 40 years to make it? Yes. Besides the fact that Wiesel was 16 when that picture was taken and the people in the Buchenwald picture are full grown men? Yes.
Even according to Wiesel’s own words in his book Night he couldn’t have been the person in the photograph. About the highlighted text below Routledge has to say, “Since this mysterious illness occurred “three days after the liberation of Buchenwald,” the date would be April 14. He was immediately hospitalized and, in his words, “spent two weeks between life and death.” According to this scenario, the first of several that he would provide over the years, Wiesel should have been in the hospital from April 14 to April 28. Since the Signal Corps propaganda picture was taken on April 16, Wiesel could not have been in it.” The whole story of Wiesel being in that famous photograph stinks.
Now you may be wondering what Wiesel’s motivation was. According to Routledge, “In retrospect, however, it is clear that this bogus claim was a first step in the New York Times’s campaign to secure a Nobel Prize for Wiesel.” Indeed, Wiesel did go on to win that coveted prize.
If you would like the full story of Wiesel’s claim read pages 153-161 of Routledge’s book.
All of this goes to show that it is possible to take a photograph and claim is shows something that it does not. I mean, that should be pretty obvious, right? Yet, people tend to forget about reason when dealing with the Holocaust. The instances of deceptively using photography that I have presented in this ‘Faked Photographs’ series should tell you that claims about the Holocaust simply cannot be taken at face value and must be questioned.
Continue to part four.