Marina Amaral’s Project Revives Nazi Atrocities in Striking Color

Photo of Auschwitz inmate girl Czesława Kwoka
Photo of Auschwitz inmate girl Czesława Kwoka
Photo of 14-year-old Auschwitz inmate Czesława Kwoka. The girl was murdered with a phenol injection into the heart in 1943. (Marina Amaral/The Auschwitz Memorial Archive)

Brazilian photo restoration and colorization specialist Marina Amaral recently wrote on her website: “In 2016, I colorized Czesława Kwoka’s photo and posted it on social media. She was just 14 when she was murdered behind the walls of Auschwitz concentration camp on 12 March 1943. Her photo is haunting. Staring straight into the camera, her eyes tell a story of fear and horrors that few of us, in modern times, can understand or relate to.”

These are the words Amaral used to describe what fueled her interest to work for the disturbing photography project, entitled “Faces of Auschwitz.” The scope of the project is a delicate one. The Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum in cooperation with Marina Amaral, and a group of journalists, academics, and volunteers, are putting some of the monstrosities that took place in Auschwitz on the spotlight, through colorizing few of the 38,916 registration photographs that were taken between February 1941 and January 1945 inside “the most deadly Nazi extermination camp.” The photos, taken from the museum’s archive, are accompanied with relevant stories about the people that are portrayed on them.

24-year-old female prisoner Janina Nowak
Polish prisoner Janina Nowak was a 24-year-old woman who arrived at Auschwitz on June 12, 1942. She was the first female prisoner to escape from the death camp of Auschwitz. (Marina Amaral/The Auschwitz Memorial Archive)

Dr. Waitman Wade Beorn, who is currently a Lecturer in the Corcoran Department of History at the University of Virginia, highlights the necessity of adding color to these photos, saying: “I think that color is humanity in a certain sense. When we have pictures that are in black and white… that lack of color already creates a barrier. It tells us this thing is old. It begins to place an artificial barrier between us and between our sort of ability to empathize.”

KL Auschwitz was founded by Nazi Germany’s SS authorities in occupied Oświęcim, Poland, in 1940. According to research data, about 1,1 million people perished in Auschwitz-Birkenau between 1940 and 1945. Among the unfortunate prisoners, there were approximately 1,100,000 Jews, 140,000 Poles, 23,000 Roma, 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war (POW) and 25,000 others, including homosexuals and disabled people.

The entrance to the German Nazi Auschwitz camp in Oświęcim, Poland.
Photo of the entrance to the German Nazi Auschwitz camp in Oświęcim, Poland.