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Harrowing story of ‘smiling boy’ of Auschwitz concentration camp

The unfortunate story of a 4-year-old boy goes around the world after photo restorer Tom Marshall colored and distributed his last photo. Istvan Reiner was photographed in Auschwitz concentration camp in 1944, smiling and in his striped uniform. Two weeks later, he died with his grandmother in the gas chamber.

In memory of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp, 75 years ago, the British photo restorer Tom Marshall (31) digitally colored various photos. With the colored images, he brings the horror that took place in the concentration camp to the attention again. In addition to horrific pictures of skinny bodies, the photo of four-year-old Istvan Reiner is particularly striking. The boy is smiling at the camera in his striped camp suit. Two weeks later, he was executed.

The 4-year-old Istvan Reiner, took a picture in Auschwitz concentration camp laughing in 1944.
©Mediadrumimages/TomMarshalll – The 4-year-old Istvan Reiner, took a picture in Auschwitz concentration camp laughing in 1944.

Istvanka ‘Istvan’ Reiner was born in 1940 into a Jewish family. Istvan himself was not a Jew because his mother had converted to Protestantism. Nevertheless, the boy and his parents were taken to the Hungarian ghetto Miskolc, after which he and his family were taken to the Auschwitz concentration camp.

In Auschwitz concentration camp, Istvan was immediately separated from his mother and accommodated with his grandmother. Not much later, he and his grandmother died in the gas chamber, as did 11,000 other people who had been transferred from Miskolc. Istvan’s mother and brother survived Auschwitz and were liberated in 1945. They migrated to the United States in 1947.

The colored photograph of Istvan and his fellow sufferers goes around the world again, 75 years after the liberation of the concentration camp. Photo restorer Tom Marshall, who colored the photos, explains on his website that this photo series was emotionally the most debilitating project of his career. “Normally, I like to paint old photos, because the process brings things back to life. But these images were just too shocking,” explained Marshall.

Tom hopes that his edited photos can help to keep the horrific images relevant so that this can never happen again.

It is not the first time that photos of the horror in Auschwitz concentration camp have been colored. Two years ago, the Brazilian artist Marina Amaral colored old black-and-white images of Auschwitz victims and gave them a new life. “When we see old photos in black and white, we get the feeling that what has been depicted has only taken place in history books. By restoring the colors, the images come to life,” says Amaral, who has made her profession of coloring historical photos.

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