, 41 tweets, 15 min read
1) In June of 1945, after the war with Germany had ended, an American Army officer in Frankfurt moved into an abandoned apartment and did what he could to make it livable.

Opening a closet door, he discovered an album of photographs. encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/art…
2) It had thirty-one pages, and 116 black-and-white images, the bulk of them a little smaller than a playing card, nearly all of them portraying German officers—at a picnic, at shooting practice, at a resort among fir trees and hills...
3) ... at the dedication of a hospital, dressed as miners and visiting a coal mine, at a dinner at a long table with a white tablecloth and wine bottles and waiters, lighting candles on a Christmas tree, at a funeral in the snow where the coffins are draped with Nazi flags.
4) Eventually, the American officer returned to the United States. He took a job with the government, in Washington, D.C., and he and his wife lived in Virginia. They had no children, and she passed away.
5) In December of 2006, the officer, wrote a letter with the help of a friend from his church, to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, in Washington, DC. He offered the museum an opportunity to look at the album.
6) According to what he could read of the captions and see of the photos, he wrote, the images appeared to depict “activities in and around Auschwitz, Poland.”
7) The album had no cover. The leaves, held together by three brass split pins, had been speckled and spotted by water and bugs. A few of the images had stains on them, too—the officer had kept the album in his basement.
8) After sixty years, the photographs remained fixed to the page so effectively that it wasn’t possible to remove them.
9) Pasted to the first page is a studio portrait of two officers. The caption reads, in translation, “With the Commandant S.S. Stubaf. Baer, Auschwitz 21.6.1944.” Stubaf. stands for Sturmbannführer, a rank equivalent to major.

The second man was not identified.
10) Baer’s first name was Richard. He was thirty-two in the photograph, and he was the commandant of Auschwitz from May, 1944, to January, 1945.
11) The photographs are so small that it is difficult to make out the faces in them, especially those of people who are not in the foreground.
12) Amid the group stood Josef Mengele, the doctor who had conducted experiments on prisoners, often on children, and particularly on twins.
13) Mengele was never caught; after the war, with the connivance of family and friends, he had lived mostly in South America, for a time rather cynically as José Mengele, and in 1978, while swimming in the ocean, he drowned.
14) At Auschwitz, he was often among the doctors on the ramp, the place where the trains stopped and the passengers were selected for death or for work, depending on the doctors’ impression of them.
15) Prisoners sometimes called Mengele the Angel of Death, because being selected for his experiments meant at least not dying immediately.
16) Upon closer inspection, Mengele was pictured 8 times in the album.

Those 8 photographs are the only existing images the world has of Mengele at the Auschwitz complex.
17) Another figure that was identified was Rudolf Hoess, who had supervised the building of Auschwitz and had been its commandant from May, 1940, to December, 1943.
18) In 1947, Hoess was sentenced to death at the first Auschwitz trials, which were held in Poland, and was hanged at the camp, the last person to be killed there.
19) No photographs had ever shown Nazis at leisure at Auschwitz, but in the album Hoess appears with Mengele at a retreat in the hills called Solahütte (or Solahuette).
20) Solahütte lay just beyond the camp’s border. It was a long, lodgelike building above the Sola River, which flowed past Auschwitz I; it is now a tavern.
21) The photographs at Solahütte are the most transparently provocative, partly because they are so strange and partly because of the notoriety of the figures they contain.
22) There are twenty-nine images, divided between two occasions, one involving officers...
23) ...and the other involving officers and young women.

These weren’t guards, but rather typists, telegraph clerks, and secretaries - called Helferinnen, which means “helpers.” Their racial purity had been established—should a Nazi officer be looking for a girlfriend or wife.
24) In some pictures, the women recline on canvas deck chairs with officers. In a series of photographs, the women and three officers run toward the camera, grinning wildly, apparently because it has suddenly begun to rain; the caption says, “Rain coming from a bright sky.”
25) Another series shows 12 Helferinnen in wool skirts & cotton blouses sitting on a terrace railing. One officer is playing the accordion. Another walks down the row of young women with a tray, serving them bowls of blueberries. (The caption says, “Here there are blueberries.”)
26) The most surreal of the Solahütte photographs shows nearly a hundred officers arrayed like a glee club up the side of a hill. The accordion player stands across from them.
27) All the men are singing except those in the very front, who perhaps feel too important for it.
28) Over the Auschwitz album, like a gloss, clings a sense of a prideful observance of manners and customs, a tranquil and purified world, a shared purpose, a satisfaction in uniforms, boots, and accordions.
29) Lives so exalted required trips to the hills, shotguns and game hunting, companionable dogs, wine, and the presence of young women.
30) The album’s effect is discordant. The people it depicts are engaged in the greatest mass murder ever committed, yet its principal impression is of pleasure.
31) What they have done is not written on their faces, but, even so, their faces are assuredly not sympathetic.
32) They are the faces of hard men, who give the impression of being restricted in their capacities, their ranges of feeling, their human emotions.
33) ... But Karl Hoecker’s is the stray face among them which seems now and then to reflect charm, courtesy, and fellow-feeling.

An occasional but fleeting look at humanity.
34) In many of the photographs, he assumes what seems to be a characteristic posture—passive, recessive, placid...

As if requiring an invitation to join the officers who outrank him.
35) But in others, he’s is boisterous, laughing, thrilled to be living his life.
36) This is, after all, his photo album...

His record of murder, extermination, genocide...
37) And he was keeping it for the ages. To record the fun times and the enjoyment that he and many others felt...

While they were committing a mass murder of unprecedented proportions.
38) So please just remember, perpetrators were for the most part ordinary people. People like you and me...

People that were capable of the most evil and monstrous things.
Please take a look at the incredible resources available online at @HolocaustMuseum: encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/art…

And this incredible article by Alec Wilkinson. I read it repeatedly and can’t shake it. Can someone please please help me find him on Twitter? newyorker.com/magazine/2008/…
Hi everyone, I don’t think I’m at all clear enough in the Tweet above. I link to Alec’s article because his language is in the thread. I also used images from the Holocaust Museum database. And I added my own words.

Alec’s article is incredible. I should have been more precise.
So yes, double hyperlinks in the first article from now on - for the pictures from the museum and for the narrative.

Or quotes throughout, every sentence. I thought I was clear at the end, but I wasn’t. Thank you for calling me out on it.
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