Thought for the day

"If there is one basic element in our Constitution, it is civilian control of the military." -- Harry S. Truman

These photos were taken between May and December 1944, and they show Auschwitz officers and guards relaxing and enjoying themselves – as countless people were being murdered and cremated at a nearby death camp was. In some pictures, SS officers can be seen singing.


In others, they are hunting and in another, a man can be seen decorating the Christmas tree in what can only be described as a holiday in hell. The album also contains eight photographs of Josef Mengele - some of the very few extant snapshots taken by the infamous concentration camp doctor during his time there.


The images are important because there are few photographs available today of the "social life" of the SS officers responsible for the mass murder at Auschwitz.


These are the first free-time photographs to be discovered of SS officers from a concentration camp, although similar images exist for other camps, including Sachsenhausen, Dachau and Buchenwald.


The album was by Karl Hucker, assistant to the last camp commandant at Auschwitz, Richard Baer. Hawker took the photographs as a personal keepsake. Before his liberation by the Allies, Hawker fled to Auschwitz.


After the war, he worked in a bank, without recognition, for years. But in 1963 he was forced to answer charges in a trial in Frankfurt over his role in Auschwitz.