Semiotic Analysis

Survivors-of-AuschwitzThis is a picture taken just after the Russian army had liberated Auschwitz Concentration Camp. Analysing the picture it strikes me that firstly, the picture is mainly of children with only a few adults there. Although they have just been liberated they are clearly being shown as still being prisoners of the camp because they are surrounded by barbed wire and they look desperately sad which I believe is due to the combination of what has happened to them while in the camp and because, as children, they don’t know what the future holds for them after years of suffering. The adults among them also look quite sad and vulnerable because no doubt they are worried about what horrors could still happen to them, not only at the hands of the Russian soldiers, but also when returning to the outside world. Many people blamed the Jews as the reason why Adolf Hitler started World War 2 so they didn’t just suffer at the hands of the Nazis, although they were definitely the main perpetrators of the horrors that they suffered. The picture seems to have been taken in a particular style deliberately to emphasise the suffering of these people. Noticing that the camera seems to be looking down at them it is obviously trying to show that, despite being liberated, these people still felt, and indeed were, extremely vulnerable and unable to comprehend what had happened and are still genuinely frightened of what was going on around them at that time. I am sure that in one way the picture is almost saying that they maybe felt slightly safer staying where they were because they would be very unsure of how they would be treated outside when so many other people had turned against them. The picture is taken in black and white and seems very dark which I believe is due to the fact that they were in a place that can only be described as hell on earth. They look like they have been caged like animals and seemingly have no place to go. I think the fact that the 2 women at the front are holding children in their arms is quite symbolic and considering what happened to children in particular at the hands of Doctor Josef Mengele in Auschwitz it appears to show that maybe these children were particularly lucky to still be alive. I also find it interesting that some of the children are wearing the striped clothing that was worn by prisoners of the camp while many others in the picture are just wearing normal clothing, a lot of which seems to be very dark in colour which I also think is meant to signify where they are and what they have been through. Also grabbing my attention is the fact that the group of people in the photograph seems to stretch as far as the eye can see which could be an attempt to give some sort of measure as to how many people died at Auschwitz (1.3M). Anybody who has been there will know that the picture is taken at what became known as Auschwitz 1, rather than Auschwitz II Birkenau which is the most recognised icon of the Holocaust because of its infamous gatehouse stretched out over the railway lines approaching it, because the tower in the background only exists at Auschwitz 1, this is also important because this was the administrative centre of the whole network of the 3 main camps and 48 sattelite camps it spawned. It is also the place where Mengele conducted his sick experiments on children such as the ones in the picture. The size of the buildings either side of the barbed wire also seems to be quite oppressive to the prisoners and the fact that they still look like prisoners despite their liberation is also quite hard hitting as it communicates a message of hopelessness and defeat and the reality of their uncertain situation despite the events that had just happened in the previous few days as the Nazis fled and the Russian liberators arrived. The children holding hands and linking arms seem to promote an image of togetherness and the appearance of at least 3 nuns in the picture also seems quite symbolic of different faiths coming together under unimaginable circumstances and standing beside each other. Although it is difficult to determine it appears that none of the children are twins which could again relate to the fact that many twins died there as a result of the experiments that Mengele conducted on them in particular. It also looks like there are none of the liberating Russian soldiers in the picture which could also be symbolic maybe because of some of the treatment that many of them are known to have inflicted on the inmates when they arrived in the camp.


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