Photo: Brett Ascarelli / Radio Sweden
The final touches are being put on the exhibit before it opens on 8 November. Photo: Brett Ascarelli / Radio Sweden

S.S. officers' photographs to go on display at Jewish Museum

9:05 min

Photographs taken by two S.S. officers at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in May 1944, are the subject of a new exhibition at the Jewish Museum in Stockholm.

Christina Gamstorp, the director of the Jewish Museum in Stockholm History, describes one of the black and white photographs, which focuses on two women who have just arrived at the camp, carrying bundles under their arms.

Looking at this photograph, Gamstorp told Radio Sweden, "I feel enormous sadness, but I think that's because I know what happened to them."

"These women are basically just waiting," said Gamstorp. "I would assume they have no idea where they have arrived, they're just waiting to see and to find out what's going on."

The photograph is in an album that portrays what happened to the Hungarian Jews once they arrived at Auschwitz. Between the 14th of May and the 8th of July, the bulk of Hungarian Jews were deported and a large majority of them were murdered on the same day they arrived on the trains, according to Gamstorp.

The album was assembled by S.S. officers, but why they made the album is not known. Gamstorp says that it was forbidden to take pictures documenting the process of Hitler's "final solution", so it is a mystery why the photos were taken and then arranged in an album, complete with fancy calligraphic labels, describing different parts of the process, ranging from "Selection" to "Still Usable Women" and from "No longer usable people" to "Belongings".

Gamstorp remarked how calm and unsuspecting many of the people in the photographs appear to be as they await what will happen next.

"I think it was part of the plan that it's very important for the S.S. to make sure that these people are calm, because otherwise the process would have been impossible," said Gamstorp.

The album eventually turned up at Mittelbau-Dora camp, where a prisoner named Lili Jacobs found it and recognized pictures of herself, her family, friends and others who had arrived on the same train that she had. When she found the album, none of her family were left alive.

The exhibit at the Jewish Museum in Stockholm displays reproductions from the original album, which contains more than 200 photographs, and is housed at the World Center for Holocaust Research, Documentation, Education and Commemoration in Israel.

The exhibit in Stockholm will run from November 8th until August 28th 2016.

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