Do these images show scratch marks of gas chamber victims at Auschwitz?

We came across the following post recently on the social media platform Reddit:

The post contains an image of scratches on a wall in the gas chambers at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum, which was formerly a Nazi concentration camp where over a million people, mostly Jews, are estimated to have been killed.

While the caption makes no explicit claim, it suggests that the scratches were caused by prisoners who were being executed in the gas chambers. Many comments on the post were in agreement with this view.

A Widespread Claim

A search across the internet revealed that similar claims were widespread. In addition to Reddit, we found similar claims across multiple social media platforms and websites including X, Facebook and TikTok. The oldest of these posts were over ten years old.

Images of the same scene also appeared to be available as a licensed image on photo repositories such as Getty Images and Flickr.

The Unfortunate Explanation

A search on the official website of the Auschwitz Museum revealed that none of the gas chambers at Auschwitz remain entirely in their original condition. The majority had been demolished in an attempt to hide evidence of the crimes there during the latter stages of World War 2.

The images are likely to be from the only surviving gas chamber at Auschwitz—gas chamber I. This building, which was phased out of use for the killings as new gas chambers were built, was repurposed as an air-raid shelter.

Following the end of the war, gas chamber I was reconstructed, including with original parts, and as a result is ‘preserved in an original state to a large degree’.

While this appears to have created the impression that the scratches on the walls date back to the time of the concentration camps, this was refuted by the Auschwitz Museum itself.

We found several instances of the Museum replying to these claims, including one by an American congressman, informing the authors of the posts that the scratches were in fact marks of vandalism created by unruly visitors.

X’s new profile labels and checkmarks create complications for assessing credibility. The blue tick, which formerly indicated that an account had been verified by the platform, can now be purchased for US$8 a month without the accounts undergoing review.

This change saw thousands of credible voices such as journalists lose their verified status, while blue-checked, ‘verified’ users on X have become major sources of disinformation.

To confirm the social media identity of the Auschwitz Museum, we cross-checked it with other platforms such as Facebook, where the Museum account’s identity has been verified and has been posting similar responses to images of the scratches.

We also verified that the accounts were those that were listed on the official website of the Auschwitz Museum.

The Museum pointed out that the marks only appear in areas accessible to tourists, while walls farther away that were inaccessible to tourists were clear of such marks.

A False Claim Amid Tragedy

There are several scenes at the Auschwitz Museum that originate from the time when the buildings were used as concentration camps. These include heaps of shoes and mounds of hair of murdered victims, along with other large collections of their personal belongings.

While these objects indicate the scale of the tragedy that occurred at the camp, the same cannot be said of the scratch marks, which appear to be the result of vandalism.

As such, given the Museum’s statements, we find it false that these images show scratch marks of gas chamber victims.

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