In January 2007, a photo album arrived at the Holocaust Museum that gave an unprecedented behind-the-scenes look at the Auschwitz complex where more than 1 million people were killed. The pictures show the everyday lives of the guards and their visitors at the complex.
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Summer 1944, a dozen men and women hamming it up for the camera, a late-afternoon bottle of wine after an outing, families lounging on the terrace of a lodge. Snapshots from the photo album of Karl Hocker, like those anyone might take of friends and colleagues, except that Hocker was the adjutant, the chief aide, to the commandant of Auschwitz, Richard Baer, and these are photos that offer an unprecedented look behind the scenes of the death camp that became synonymous with the horror of the Holocaust.
More than a million people — mostly Jews — were murdered at Auschwitz, a huge complex 37 miles west of Krakow, Poland. It operated from 1940 until Russian troops arrived in January 1945. The wholesale slaughter in the gas chambers and work camps is well-documented, but the Hocker album was a rare and unexpected find.
REBECCA ERBELDING, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum:
In December of 2006, I got a letter. It had actually floated around the museum a bit because it wasn't addressed to anyone specifically, and it ended up with me.