Höcker Album (or Hoecker Album) is a collection of photographs
believed to have been collected by Karl-Friedrich Höcker, an officer
for the SS during the Nazi regime in Germany. It contains over one
hundred images of the lives and living conditions of the officers and
administrators who ran the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp
complex. The album is unique, and an indispensable document of the
Holocaust; it is now in the archives of the United States Holocaust
Memorial Museum (USHMM) in Washington, D.C.
3 Mengele photographs
4 Timing of photographs
5 Höcker's case
6 See also
8 External links
According to the museum, the photograph album was found by an
unidentified American counterintelligence officer who was billeted in
Frankfurt after Germany's surrender in 1945. This officer discovered
the photo album in an apartment there, and when he returned to the
United States, he brought the album with him.
In January 2007, the American officer donated the album to the USHMM,
with the request that his identity not be disclosed. The captions of
the photographs, and the people featured in the images, quickly
confirmed that it depicts life in and around the Auschwitz camps. The
very first photograph is a double portrait of Richard Baer, Auschwitz
camp commandant between 1944 and 1945, and Baer's adjutant, Karl
The album contains 116 photographs, all in black and white, almost all
of them featuring German officers. It is believed to have been the
property of Höcker because he appears in far more of the images than
any other individual. On the title page underneath a picture of
Höcker and Baer is written, "With the Commandant SS Stubaf. Baer,
Auschwitz 21.6.44", identifying Höcker as the owner of the album. He
is also the only person in the album to appear alone in any of the
Some of the images depict formal events, like military funerals and
the dedication of a new hospital. They also include images of the camp
officers relaxing at a staff retreat known as the Solahütte, a rustic
lodge only around 20 miles away from the camp complex. These images
are regarded as the most striking, because they show cheerful staff
officers singing, drinking and eating while, in the camp itself,
tremendous suffering is taking place.
A number of the photographs show officers relaxing in the company of
young women—stenographers and typists who were known generally as
Helferinnen, the German word for (female) helpers.
Both of the camp's most well-known commanders, Richard Baer and Rudolf
Höss, are visible in the photographs. But possibly the most notorious
Auschwitz figure who features in the album is Dr. Josef Mengele, known
to camp prisoners as the "Angel of Death." Mengele, a trained
physician, directed the medical experiments on twin children in the
camp. He regularly took part in the "selection" on the train arrival
platform, judging which prisoners would be immediately executed and
which would be permitted to live and perform slave labor.
In all, the album contains eight photographs in which Mengele appears.
Before the donation of the album to the museum, no images were known
to exist showing him within the camp grounds.
Timing of photographs
The photographs in the
Höcker Album are viewed as especially chilling
because of the time during which they were made, between June and
December 1944. It has been noted by archivists and historians that
this period overlaps with the mass extermination of hundreds of
Hungarian Jews in the spring and summer of 1944—an
event known as "the Hungarian Transport". These Jews were gathered and
shipped to Auschwitz after Operation Margarethe, the March 1944
invasion by the Nazis of Hungary. So many
Hungarian Jews were killed
in the Auschwitz camps during that period that the crematoria were
incapable of consuming all the bodies, and open pits for the purpose
According to Rebecca Erbelding, the museum archivist who received the
album from its donor and first recognized its significance, "the album
reminds us that the perpetrators of the Holocaust were human beings,
men and women with families, children and pets, who celebrated
holidays and took vacations... These people were human beings... and
these photographs remind us what human beings are capable of when they
succumb to anti-Semitism, racism and hatred."
Höcker married before the war and had a son and daughter during the
war, with whom he was reunited after his release from 18 months in a
POW camp in 1946. Early in the 1960s he was apprehended by
West German authorities in his hometown, where he was a bank official.
It is not known why the bank rehired and promoted him after a long
absence during which he had nothing to do with banking.
At his trial in Frankfurt, part of the
Frankfurt Auschwitz Trials,
Höcker denied having participated in the selection of victims at
Birkenau or having ever personally executed a prisoner. He further
denied any knowledge of the fate of the approximately 400,000
Hungarian Jews who were murdered at Auschwitz during his term of
service at the camp. Höcker was shown to have knowledge of the
genocidal activities at the camp, but could not be proved to have
played a direct part in them. In postwar trials, Höcker denied his
involvement in the selection process. While accounts from survivors
and other SS officers all but placed him there, prosecutors could
locate no conclusive evidence to prove the claim.
In August 1965 Höcker was sentenced to seven years imprisonment for
aiding and abetting in over 1,000 murders at Auschwitz. He was
released in 1970 and was able to return to his bank post as a chief
cashier, where he worked until his retirement.
On 3 May 1989 a district court in the Germany city of Bielefeld
sentenced Höcker to four years imprisonment for his involvement in
gassing to death prisoners, primarily Polish Jews, in the
concentration camp Majdanek in Poland. Camp records showed that
between May 1943 and May 1944 Höcker had acquired at least 3,610
Zyklon B poisonous gas for use in Majdanek from the
Hamburg firm of Tesch & Stabenow.
^ Wilkinson, Alec, Picturing Auschwitz, New Yorker Magazine, March 17,
2008. Page 48
^ Wilkinson, pp. 50-51
^ a b Wilkinson, page 51
^ Wilkinson, pp. 48-52
^ a b Erbelding, Rebecca, interview, NYTimes.com, Sept. 18, 2007
^ Wilkinson, page 52
^ Justiz und NS-Verbrechen(in German)
Karl Höcker's photograph album
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