Laughing at Auschwitz – SS auxiliaries poses at a resort for Auschwitz personnel, 1942

The photos show the officers of the Auschwitz relaxing and enjoying themselves, as countless people were being murdered and cremated at the death camp.

These photos were taken between May and December 1944, and they show the officers and guards of the Auschwitz relaxing and enjoying themselves — as countless people were being murdered and cremated at the nearby death camp. In some of the photos, SS officers can be seen singing. In others they are hunting and in another a man can be seen decorating a Christmas tree in what could only be described as a holiday in hell. The album also contains eight photos of Josef Mengele — some of the very few existing snapshots taken of the concentration camp’s notorious doctor during the time he spent there.

The images are significant because there are few photos available today of the “social life” of the SS officers who were responsible for the mass murder at Auschwitz. These are the first leisure time photos of the concentration camp’s SS officers to be discovered, though similar images do exist for other camps, including Sachsenhausen, Dachau and Buchenwald.

The album belonged to Karl Höcker, the adjutant to the final camp commandant at Auschwitz, Richard Baer. Höcker took the pictures as personal keepsakes. Prior to its liberation by the Allies, Höcker fled Auschwitz. After the war, he worked for years, unrecognized, in a bank. But in 1963 he was forced to answer to charges for his role at Auschwitz at a trial in Frankfurt. In his closing words in the trial, Höcker claimed: “I had no possibility in any way to influence the events and I neither wanted them to happen nor took part in them. I didn’t harm anyone and no one died at Auschwitz because of me”. In the end, though, he was convicted on charges of aiding and abetting the murders of 1,000 Jews and was sentenced to seven years in prison. He was released after serving five years. In 2000, he died at the age of 88.

The photos were made public by the United States National Holocaust Museum in Washington. The museum obtained the photos from a retired US Army intelligence officer, who came across the album in an apartment in Frankfurt and has now given them to the museum. “These unique photographs vividly illustrate the contented world they enjoyed while overseeing a world of unimaginable suffering”, museum director Sara Bloomfield said in a statement. “They offer an important perspective on the psychology of those perpetrating genocide”. The director of the museum’s photographic reference collection, Judith Cohen, said there are no photos depicting anything abhorrent, “and that’s precisely what makes them so horrible”.

Christmas 1944: Karl Höcker lights the candles of a Christmas tree.

Christmas 1944: Karl Höcker lights the candles of a Christmas tree.

 

See all photos at: Laughing at Auschwitz – SS auxiliaries poses at a resort for Auschwitz personnel, 1942 – Rare Historical Photos

France24 looks at Trump’s “Patriotic Education Commission”

Donald Trump is setting up a “Patriotic Education Commission” to promote a “pro-American curriculum” in US schools… Or a propagandist “Hitler Youth” programme, as many commentators see it. Elsewhere women protesters in Belarus and an anonymous website targeting Hong Kong pro-democracy activists, are both employing a doxing-style strategy.

“Sanctuary!”

The “Sanctuary!” scene from the classic 1939 version of Victor Hugo’s “Hunchback of Notre Dame,” starring Charles Laughton as Quasimodo and Maureen O’Hara as Esmeralda.

“Hunchback” was the only movie screened at the very first Cannes Film Festival, as the remainder of the festival was cancelled when Adolf Hitler invaded Poland on September 1st, 1939. The bell-ringing scene was Laughton’s response to impending war. The actor later said he rang the bells actually wanting “to arouse the (real) world, to stop that terrible butchery!”

“It is absurd to speak of Laughton’s Quasimodo as a great performance, as if that were some quantifiable assessment. It is acting at its greatest; it is Laughton at his greatest; it is a cornerstone of this century’s dramatic achievement; it is a yardstick for all acting.”
– SIMON CALLOW, NY Times 1988