At first glance when you look at the picture it doesn’t appear to be extraordinary. There is an officer clearly giving a speech. There are a few Christmas trees at the back so it appears to be some sort of Christmas do.
The officer is Albert Konrad Gemmeker he was a German SS-Obersturmführer and camp commandant of the Westerbork transit camp.
He was considered the friendly face of Nazi evil. Known as a decent commander, who insisted that he never knew what happened to the Jews in camps such as Auschwitz. Yet during his reign at the Dutch camp, around 80,000 Jewish people were deported to Auschwitz.
On 19 December 1942 Gemmeker threw a Christmas party, or rather a Julfest (Yule feast).
The venue for his party was Westerbork. According to some survivors, a line of shiny new cars had pulled up to the camp, with several high-ranking SS officers and their mistresses or prostitutes, either way not their wives. Officers like Aus der Funten and photographer Breslau, Untersturmführer Hassel, who was there with his wife.
The big hall in Westerbork was filled with SS staff celebrating. What makes it even more disturbing is that their food was cooked and served by some of those 80,000 Gemmeker would later send to Auschwitz, to be murdered.
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