A picture conveys….

October 15, 2007 at 3:00 am 3 comments

I was toying around with whether to blog on this or not. But an incoming article from my RSS feeds made up my mind. Nazi Germany. We’ve all learnt about the horrors of the concentration camps at school or university. (Let me say at this point, if you don’t believe that the Holocaust happened, buzz off to another blog). We’ve all seen the photos of skeletal camp inmates or gassed bodies piled high on top of each other.

The Nazi symbol was of course the swastika and you probably know that it has been widely used in Hinduism and Buddhism for example and so it has religious connotations. But the Nazis appropriated it and 60 years after WWII is remains a powerful, controversial symbol. So I was a bit taken aback when I read that some dude in India has come up with a line of bedspreads he’s calling the Nazi Collection, complete with the swastika symbol. He says Nazi is an acronym for “New Arrival Zone of India” and is not meant to be offensive or anti-Semitic. What the? Is this okay or do you find this extraordinarily insensitive and offensive?

And this news coupled with newly released, rare photos provided by the US Holocaust Museum showing SS officers and Auschwitz camp staff living it up as the gas chambers and crematoriums were operating. The 116 images were taken by Karl Hoecker, the adjutant to the camp commandant, between May and December 1944. They show SS officers having a ripping sing-a-long with an accordion player (including Josef Mengele), hunting trips, the camp’s Christmas tree being lit up, and female SS auxiliaries eating blueberries and then mockingly crying and posing with empty bowls. Here are some of the images, but you go here and see more. Take time to explore the album. I found it quite disturbing.

Even though I’ve studied Nazi Germany extensively at Uni in my undergrad history degree, I find it hard to come to grips with the concentration camps. I guess the SS officers and camp staff were ordinary, everyday Germans and when you look at the photos you have to ask yourself : were they oblivious to what was going on? They were simultaneously carrying on social lives and celebrating Christmas while mass murder was being committed. How did they see themselves? It’s a juxtaposition of luxury and celebration versus unimaginable suffering.

Historically, it’s very valuable to have these artifacts released as a counterpoint to the photos of Jews being dragged off to their fate. It puts faces on the people who carried out unspeakable horrors. It reminds us that history can indeed repeat itself and the images should act as a warning for future generations, which is why I chose to blog about it.

Source: BBC News

Entry filed under: History, India, Nazi Germany, Photography, Rant.

What’s in a name? Space race 2.0

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. DB  |  October 15, 2007 at 8:49 pm

    I recently went through the Washington Holocaust museum…these photos just add to that horrific experience…where ever possible we must not hesitate to try and understand this horrible event…by not hiding new information but by allowing future generations to know what happened even if its hard to make sense of how people could be so vicious…then again we have Darfur..Rowanda….I have met a few people who still say, with all the available information…”l think that the Holocaust did not exist or that we embellish the true events”.
    For those that still think this way we must continue to confront them with the truth…so that maybe someday the phrase ‘never again’ will become a fact.

  • 2. Andrew Hill  |  October 20, 2007 at 2:03 am

    Hi Kim,

    I’ve been loving your climate change stuff and sharing them with colleagues as we try and reduce our office footprint. It seems to me with a small child and another bun in the (gas) oven that we can draw parallels with our situation and those of the death camp administrators.

    I forget the psychologist who did the experiment with the mock electric shocks, but it shows how easily we can condemn others when we share essentially the same nature, the only difference is context.
    Will my children look back at Christmas photos of us flying to a tropical resort with the same sense of horror?

    Are we putting up the same spin to ourselves in justifying invading Iraq – that the deaths of a few hundred thousand “sand niggers’ dehumanises them enough to balm our worries over the fairness of maintaining our disproportionally high standard of wealth, never mind that famine and disease still reap a terrible toll regularly in many third-world economies?

    How will Western Civilization be judged in 50 years?

  • 3. thinkingshift  |  October 22, 2007 at 5:47 am

    Hi Andrew
    Good to see you on TS blog and glad you’re liking the stuff on climate change. Is the psychologist you’re thinking of Dr Ewen Cameron, who carried out electric shock treatments on patients in the 1950s, funded by the CIA?


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