On June 23, the Russian Arms Control Delegation in Vienna claimed that anti-Russian stickers had appeared at the Auschwitz-Birkenau museum in southern Poland. The alleged stickers said in English, “Russia and Russians: The only gas you and your country deserve is Zyklon B.” Zyklon B is a reference to a type of poisonous gas” used by Nazi Germany in the gas chambers at Auschwitz. The tweet also contained photos of the stickers allegedly displayed around the Auschwitz memorial.
The tweet was retweeted by other Russian diplomatic Twitter accounts, including the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Russian embassies in Canada, Israel, and North Macedonia. The first tweet about the stickers was posted on Twitter around 6 pm CET on June 22 by @politoptimist, which appears to be a pro-Kremlin Twitter account.
Pro-Kremlin Russian media also reported on the stickers. Eurasia Daily reported that the event took place on June 22 as a symbolic act, as this is the day when Russia commemorates the beginning of World War II. Pravda alleged that the stickers were placed by Ukrainian refugees. Other pro-Kremlin online outlets also reported on the incident, including Polit Rossiya, Vesti Podmoskovie, Russian Federal News Agency, Fin journal.info and Politika Segodnya.
On June 24, the official Twitter account of the Auschwitz Museum commented on the tweet posted by the Russian Arms Control Delegation, saying, “the photographs are simply a manipulation and the incident should be treated in terms of primitive and gross propaganda.”
The DFRLab analyzed the photos posted by the Russian Arms Control Delegation using error level analysis on FotoForensics. The analysis suggests that the sections of each image containing the sticker had a different error level compared to the rest of the image, which can indicate digital editing or compositing. When a photo is modified and re-saved, it increases the error level of the altered areas, which can be distinguished in error level analysis by different hues. This indicates that the stickers were likely composited into the images. The DFRLab also found a very similar sticker online, which could have been edited to create the manipulated sticker.
Forensic photo analysis revealed that some parts of the photos were likely altered. (Source: FotoForensics).
Report prepared and first time published on the Atlantic Council web page. Author Givi Gigitashvili, Research Associate, Warsaw, Poland
Cover illustration: Fake anti-Russian stickers at the Auschwitz-Birkenau museum / Source onet.pl