Haunting pictures of Holocaust victim brought to life with colour

Czesława Kwoka (pictured) was given the prison number 26947.

Czesława Kwoka (pictured) was given the prison number 26947. Photo: Marina Amaral

Black-and-white photos of a 14-year-old girl in the Auschwitz concentration camp have been colourised in an art project that has given even sharper focus to the horrors of the Holocaust.

The colourised portraits of Polish teenager Czesława Kwoka have given greater definition to the blood on her busted lip and the blank look in her eyes as she sits obediently shortly after being beaten by a female prison guard.

The black-and-white photo of Czesława was originally taken in 1942 by fellow prisoner Wilhelm Brasse as part of the documentation of detainees compiled by officials of the notorious Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.

Mr Brasse, who died in 2012, talked in a 2005 documentary of Czesława’s feeling of powerlessness at the time of the photo shoot.

“She [Ms Kwoka] cried but she could do nothing. Before the photograph was taken, the girl dried her tears and the blood from the cut on her lip,” Mr Brasse said.

Czesława, along with her mother, was forcibly removed from her home in eastern Poland and sent by train with 318 other women to the  concentration camp on December 13, 1942.

Czesława was killed with a dose of phenol injected directly into the heart, 67 days after the photo was taken.

This method of execution was used on hundreds of children who were not deemed “racially fit” to be “Germanised” within Nazi families.

Seventy-five years after Czesława was first photographed, Brazilian artist Marina Amaral modified the images to include colour.

“When we see the photos in black and white, we get the feeling that those events happened only in the history books,” Ms Amaral told UK newspaper Metro. 

“By restoring the colours on her face, I was able to show the colours of the blood and the bruises, which made everything even more real.”

In the months spent editing the images, Ms Amaral said she picked up a red triangle on Czesława’s overalls with a black ‘P’ in its centre – a symbol that identified the young victim as a political prisoner.

Czesława was one of 230,000 children under 18 and the total 1.3 million people who the Nazis deported to Auschwitz from 1940-1945, according to the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial and museum.

“These people were human beings who had dreams, ambitions, fears, friends, family, and had all this taken from them,” Ms Amaral said.

“Unfortunately, Czesława was just one among millions of others, but the expression on her face – so much fear, and at the same time so much courage, will stay with me forever.”

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