Auschwitz officer scrapbook — "the banality of evil"

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Next week, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum will feature an online display of a photo scrapbook that depicts the day-to-day lives of Auschwitz's SS officers. It was donated to the museum by a former United States Army intelligence officer who found the photographs over 60 years ago in Germany.

Shown here: Nazi officers and female auxiliaries pose on a wooden bridge in Solahütte (a recreation lodge for the SS near Auschwitz).

The comparisons between the albums are both poignant and obvious, as they juxtapose the comfortable daily lives of the guards with the horrific reality within the camp, where thousands were starving and 1.1 million died.

For example, one of the Höcker pictures, shot on July 22, 1944, shows a group of cheerful young women who worked as SS communications specialists eating bowls of fresh blueberries. One turns her bowl upside down and makes a mock frown because she has finished her portion.

On that day, said Judith Cohen, a historian at the Holocaust museum in Washington, 150 new prisoners arrived at the Birkenau site. Of that group, 21 men and 12 women were selected for work, the rest transported immediately to the gas chambers.

The New York Times has a slideshow with audio commentary by Rebecca Erbelding, an archivist at the the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.