Photographs of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi concentration camp, now a museum

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Bengaluru-based photographer Sudeesh Yezhuvath’s exhibition revisits a dark chapter in history, capturing the horrors of the Holocaust

The 4 x 6 foot photograph showing a sea of ​​shoes dominates a wall in one of the galleries at the Durbar Hall Art Gallery in Kochi. It is a heartbreaking image for several reasons.

The shoes shown are the remains of the 1.1 million people killed in the Nazi concentration camps of Auschwitz. This photograph, along with 73 others, is part of the ‘Yours is Not to Reason Why’ exhibition by Bengaluru-based IT entrepreneur, Sudeesh Yezhuvath.

Sudeesh Yezhuvath

The images bring to mind the horrors of Auschwitz to those who have only read about the Holocaust or seen it in films and documentaries. The concentration camp was commemorated as the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial Museum in Poland.

What remains of the camp shows how the Nazi machinery went about killing Jews there. Tall watchtowers, barbed wire fences around pathways, red brick buildings on a carpet of green grass – the images communicate an eerie and unsettling stillness.

A gas chamber in Auschwitz

“There was no vegetation when the camp was ‘operating’, we were told. There were so many people in the three camps, Auschwitz I, II (Birkenau) and III (Monowitz), that there was no room for anything else,” says Sudeesh, who captured these images during a trip in 2018.

A different take

At the Auschwitz museum, Sudeesh took these photographs as a normal tourist would. “Usually when you are in a tourist place, you see happy and smiling faces. However, not a single person in our group smiled.

Confronted with what he saw at the concentration camp, Sudeesh said, he was apprehensive. “It wasn’t in the distant past or for that matter in the Middle Ages. This holocaust happened barely eight decades ago. It’s a scary thought. A friend had suggested that he visit the museum in the winter, “to get an idea of ​​the cruelty that was inflicted in the camp. Didn’t go in the winter…but it was quite chilly.

An engineer from Palakkad, Kerala, Sudeesh runs an IT company in Bengaluru. He is a photography enthusiast who has visited more than 73 countries, he says.

Photographs of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi concentration camp, now a museum

He had not originally planned to exhibit these photographs. That suggestion came from his close friend and visual artist Murali Cheeroth, who curated the photographs with Jayaraj Sundaresan who teaches at the London School of Economics.

The response to the exhibit exceeded his expectations, Sudeesh said. “Most people were shocked and many appreciated the photos for their artistic value.”

The question that haunted him while he was at the Museum was: “About 7,000 people were working in these camps in various capacities, these people were returning home to lead a ‘normal’ life listening to music, playing with their children and their family. They encountered this situation every day for a few years, what did they like? How could they be so dehumanized? Where was the rationality of thought?

When they finished the visit to the Museum, the guide reminded them that “something like this could happen in any country, at any time”.

Sudeesh, through these photographs, says he remembers the meaning of the story. “That is why George Santayana’s quote is displayed at the entrance to the first barracks of Auschwitz: “Those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it. This is why Auschwitz must remain in our memory,” he concludes.

The exhibition, which opened on October 16, ends on October 29. He also plans to exhibit in Bangalore.

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