The mystery of the Auschwitz albums

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The Auschwitz Album

The Auschwitz Album is a unique photographic record of the Holocaust of the Second World War. A collection of photographs taken inside a Nazi German death camp, it is the only surviving pictorial evidence (with the exception of four surreptitious photographs taken by Sonderkommandos) of the extermination process from inside the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi concentration camp.

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The identity of the photographer has never been determined. They may have been taken by either Ernst Hoffmann or Bernhard Walter, two SS men responsible for fingerprinting and taking photo IDs of those prisoners who were not selected for extermination.The album has 56 pages and 193 photographs. Originally, it had more photos, but before being donated to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Israel, some of them were given to survivors who recognized relatives and friends.

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The images follow the processing of newly arrived Hungarian Jews from Carpatho-Ruthenia in the early summer of 1944. They document the disembarkation of the Jewish prisoners from the train boxcars, followed by the selection process, performed by doctors of the SS and wardens of the camp, which separated those who were considered fit for work from those who were to be sent to the gas chambers. The photographer followed groups of those selected for work, and those selected for death to a birch grove just outside the crematoria where they were made to wait before being killed. The photographer also documented the workings of an area called Canada, where the looted belongings of the prisoners were sorted before transport to Germany.

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The album’s survival is remarkable, given the strenuous efforts made by the Nazis to keep the “Final Solution” a secret. Also remarkable is the story of its discovery. Lili Jacob (later Lili Jacob-Zelmanovic Meier) was selected for work at Auschwitz-Birkenau while the other members of her family were sent to the gas chambers.

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(Yisrael and Zelig Jacob, the younger brothers of Lili Jacob, from the Auschwitz Album)

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The Auschwitz camp was evacuated by the Nazis as the Soviet army approached. Jacob passed through various camps, finally arriving at the Dora concentration camp, where she was eventually liberated. Recovering from illness in a vacated barracks of the SS, Jacob found the album in a cupboard beside her bed. Inside, she found pictures of herself, her relatives, and others from her community. The coincidence was astounding, given that the Nordhausen-Dora camp was over 640 km (400 mi) away, and that over 1,100,000 people were killed at Auschwitz.

The album’s existence had been known publicly since at least the 1960s, when it was used as evidence at the Frankfurt Auschwitz Trials. Nazi-hunter Serge Klarsfeld visited Lili in 1980 and convinced her to donate the album to Yad Vashem.

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The album’s contents were first published that year in the book The Auschwitz Album, edited by Klarsfeld.

Selection and Selected for slave labor

 

The last moments before the gas chambers

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I didn’t post all the photographs I picked the ones I thought were the most haunting.The looks in some of the eyes ,of especially children,are chilling.

Sonderkommando photographs

The Sonderkommando photographs are four blurred photographs taken secretly in August 1944 inside the Auschwitz concentration camp.they are the only ones known to exist of events around the gas chambers.

The images were taken within 15–30 minutes of each other by an inmate inside Auschwitz-Birkenau, the extermination camp within the Auschwitz complex. Usually named only as Alex, a Jewish prisoner from Greece, the photographer was a member of the Sonderkommando, inmates forced to work in and around the gas chambers. Several sources identified him as Alberto Errera, a Greek Jewish naval officer.

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He took two shots from inside one of the gas chambers and two outside, shooting from the hip, unable to aim the camera with any precision. The Polish resistance smuggled the film out of the camp in a toothpaste tube.

On 9 Augus during the transport of ash from the Krematorium, to be discharged into the Vistula, Errera tried to convince his three co-detainees (including Hugo Baruch Venezia and Henri Nechama Capon) to escape, but they refused. Once on site, Errera stunned the accompanying two Schupos with a shovel, and plunged into the Vistula.

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He was caught during the next two or three days, tortured and killed. As usual when a fugitive was caught, his body was exposed at the camp entrance, as an example to the other inmates.

The photographs were numbered 280–283 by the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum.Nos. 280 and 281 show the cremation of corpses in a fire pit, shot through the black frame of the gas chamber’s doorway or window. No. 282 shows a group of naked women just before they enter the gas chamber. No. 283 is an image of trees, the result of the photographer aiming too high.

 

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