Independent reporting on human rights, environmental and conflict issues

And Now for Something Completely Different I


The US Holocaust Memorial Museum recently acquired a photo album compiled by Karl Hoecker, an adjutant to Richard Baer, the Auschwitz camp commander. The album was discovered in Frankfurt by a US intelligence officer in 1946, who hid it from the public until last year when he handed it over to the museum. Some of the shots are boring images of men in SS uniforms, standing around talking as have been seen before. But among the collection are pictures of camp employees singing and dancing on their time off, relaxing at a neighboring resort, eating blueberries and playing accordian. The faces are haunting, particularly the women’s. There is something grotesque and impish about their smiling regards, a sort of crazed hilarity about their jubilation, a corrupted, quasi-orgasmic air about their revelry, as if they had all just gotten away with murder….At the same time, there are images of what appear to be absolutely normal human beings, tending to their children or pets, taking in the sun on a veranda. They are worth looking at and I post them here because they are a testament to the importance of photography in our understanding of history. I have heard many people, photographers included, say that pictures don’t capture truth, but I believe otherwise, that there are moments when in fact they do. VIEW ALBUM


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