In January 2007, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum received a donation of a photograph album that appears to have belonged to SS-Obersturmführer Karl Höcker, the adjutant to SS-Sturmbannführer Richard Baer, the commandant of Auschwitz. The album can now be viewed in its entirety online, and features Karl Höcker, Richard Baer, Rudolf Hoess, Josef Kramer, and über monster Josef Mengele (known to inmates as The Angel of Death).
This album is incredibly disturbing, in a way unlike any other album I have seen from Auschwitz or any other camps. The album contains no pictures at all documenting Nazi atrocities. Rather, the pictures are all of happy Nazis just going about their lives – all within feet of where millions were exterminated. Pictures of a hunting trip, snacking on blueberries, dedicating a new hospital building, a visit to a coal mine, and more.
It is easy to dehumanize the purveyors of Nazi genocide so as to help come to grips with the Holocaust, but this album shows a very normal looking human side to some of the most notorious men in Nazi Germany, and that’s more disturbing that I had expected.

5 thoughts

  1. Ben, the album does give the impression that they are human – they were living people that would eat breathe and sleep, but that’s about where the humanity ends. I think it’s important to remember that Auschwitz (and other camps like it) was the END result of a systematic process of de-humanization of Jews, Gypsy’s, Poles, Slavs and many many others. A process that was long thought out and took over a decade to implement. Look at these pictures and see what you want, I only see monsters.
    Cheers,
    Davo

  2. I appreciate your reporting on these issues. There is just to much to say about how wrong the camps were. Sadly there were those whose hatred of the Jews was just as outspoken here in the US during those years. It’s sadly interesting that one of our own Michigan giants, Henry Ford, was a negative activist against the people of Israel also.
    I hope that we have learned enough in science that we never go down the Natzi road again! There are not races as we thought of them in those days. We do have national, cultural and geographic dominant features. But the deprave views of many powerful men in those days used psudo-science to justify genocide and presenting only a placid picture of those men is not right in any way. You are right to protest the ignorance of the presentation indeed!

  3. Ben,
    Thank you for sharing this.
    @Davo and others
    I don’t see monsters, I see people that performed, or allowed to be performed, monstrous acts on other people. The Nazis as a dehumanized, juggernaut of evil, is far easier for me to revile and claim "I could never be a part of that", than a group of people caught up in doing what they thought was "right". That is why I find this so disturbing. History is replete with examples of people conducting horrific atrocities against other people solely based on race, religion, or other human-defined differences. The most terrifying part is that we (as human beings) will probably do it again (jihadists already are but that’s another subject). I just hope if I am ever confronted with this choice, that I am not caught up in the propaganda, blindly following a leader or leaders "showing me the light" or not too apathetic to raise an eyebrow because "it’s not happening to me".

  4. Just to point out the de-humanization effect: Years after escaping to south America one of camp commanders from a train window saw a group of cows in front of a slaughterhouse. He looked at the cows and their eyes and remarked – they look just as these Jews while awaiting their turn at the gas chamber. For the SS the prisoners were somehow less human – on par with ‘cow – slaughterhouse worker’ relationship.

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