Auschwitz, evil at play

By JIM VERHULST, Perspective Editor
Published October 7, 2007

The power of a photo is a force beyond words -- to move us, to make us feel, to make us think in ways that words simply cannot. So what to think, what to feel when confronted with images such as these?

Here are the Nazi butchers of Auschwitz at play near the death camp in 1944 in a photo album kept by Karl Hoecker, the adjutant to the camp commander. The album, 116 pictures in all, was found by a former U.S. intelligence officer more than 60 years ago in Germany.

Several months ago -- not long before he died -- he donated them anonymously to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, which has just made them public on its Web site.

Photos of Holocaust victims in the death camps are deeply disturbing, and nothing can compare with their horror. But these photos are troubling in their own right -- that human beings, when not killing, could simply relax in the shadow of murder.

To try to make some sense of these pictures, staffer Waveney Ann Moore, who has written extensively about our own Holocaust museum in St. Petersburg, sought out some Auschwitz survivors in the Tampa Bay area.

There is another album from Auschwitz, pictures of victims taken by SS photographers, discovered shortly after liberation by a survivor. The Holocaust Memorial Museum a says "a comparison of Hoecker's album to the other known Auschwitz album is both fitting and necessary." We must never forget.