In the concentration camp of Auschwitz one million and 100,000 people lost their lives. Most of them were Jewish but amongst them there were also Slavic, Homosexual, Polish, Romanian, Sinti people, Russian war prisoners and other unwanted individuals.

When we talk about this place it is difficult to picture the ones who would operate there, those killers who exterminated an enormous number of lives. The officers of the camps were both men and women of the SS personnel, and they were some of the most effective hands which allowed the nightmare to become true.

The pictures here gathered, selection of 116 snaps, were taken between May and December 1944 by Karl Höcker, helper of Richard Baer, leader of the camp, during a retreat in Solahütte, little resort built by the prisoners themselves. Inside the album it is included a unique document, essential for a historiographic understanding of the Holocaust. The collection is nowadays kept in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in Washington, D.C.

Below: the first page shows Höcker with the commander Richard Baer. 21th of June 1944

Below: Some Helferinnen (female guards), with woollen skirts and cotton shirts, listen to the accordion, eat blueberries served by Karl Höcker

Below: the retreat in Solahütte used to give some relax to the SS officers working in Auschwitz

The pictures are meaningful because most of the social life images of the officers went destroyed. This was the 1st album showing informal activities even though we have some examples coming from the camps of  Sachsenhausen, Dachau e Buchenwald.

Below: the officers relax along with women and children in Solahütte

Below: SS officers among whom there is Dr. Josef Mengele on the left. The album Höcker  is the only one where we see Mengele engaged in the camp life

Sara Bloomfield, director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, declare: “These pictures show the evident satisfaction of the officers while supervising an unbearable world of pain. This album offers an important perspective on the psychology of those who committed the genocide”.

The director of the photographic collection of the museum, Judith Cohen, said that: “there is no description of abomination throughout the pictures and that’s exactly what makes them horrible”.

Below: Relax in Solahütte

Below: singing to let the steam out

Below: officers and assistants

Below: 13 women from the SS sitting on the railing while eating blueberries

Below: Karl Höcker and his female colleagues returning from Solahütte

At Auschwitz

Below: Höcker practice at the firing range with other SS operators. On the right with the summer uniform

Below: Christmas 1944: Karl Höcker lit a few candles for the Christmas tree

Below: some SS officers during an official event

Below: opening of the Auschwitz Hospital

Below: the SS officers gather for the ceremony of the new hospital

Below: a group of SS officers visit a coal mine near Auschwitz

Below: the officer Karl Höcker with his dog “Favorit”

Below: fun time in Auschwitz . SS officers drink together

Below: a break from the camp life. The 2nd from the left is the well known Doctor Josef Mengele, the “Angel of Death”

Below: Karl Höcker on the right with Richard Baer and Rudolf Hoess

Below: a group photo of the mass killers of Auschwitz. from left: Josef Kramer, Josef Mengele, Richard Baer, Karl Höcker

What happened to the photographer?

Höcker was born in 1911 and, since he was 18 he worked in a bank as an apprentice until 1931. In 1933  he entered the Nazi party where he was politically active then sent to Auschwitz as a worker until 1945. After the war he was kept in the UK in a work camp then, in 1946 was released and randomly taken back to the bank where he used to work twenty years earlier.

During the Frankfurt Auschwitz trial, happened between 1963 to the 1965, he was condemned to 7 years for the over 1,000 homicides of Auschwitz. Released in 1970 after less than 5 years he came back to the bank where he became head cashier, where he remained until his retirement. In 1989, during a trial in Bielefeld, Höcker was considered as guilty for having handled a purchase of 3,610 kg of Zyklon B from the Tesch & Stabenow of Hamburg, the gas employed for the mass murder at the camp. He died in 2000 at the age of 88 surrounded by the love of his wife and two children.

Despite he was one of the men accountable for the death of over one million of people, he spent not more than 6 years in prison

All pictures are in the public domain

Matteo Rubboli

I am a publisher specialised in the digital distribution of culture and founder of the portal Vanilla Magazine. I don't wear a tie or branded clothes, I keep my hair short so I don't have to comb it. That's not my fault but just the way I've been drawn as...

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