U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum speaker series programs in Chicago, Highland Park, Wednesday and Thursday

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below, from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum….

In Honor of the Museum’s 15th Anniversary, Archivist Rebecca Erbelding Speaks in Highland Park and Chicago about Photos that Provide Unique Insight

Into the Lives of Officers at the Largest Nazi Killing Center

CHICAGO — The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum recently unveiled an important addition to its collection — a personal photo album belonging to SS officer Karl Hcker with 116 pictures taken between May and December 1944 chronicling the life of SS officers and other officials at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. The rare images capture SS guards and Nazi officials relaxing and enjoying time off — hunting, singing, trimming a Christmas tree and more — all while Jews were being murdered in the camp at rates as high as any time during the Holocaust. The album also contains the only known photographs of Dr. Josef Mengele at the camp.

Museum archivist Rebecca Erbelding will discuss the album at two presentations in the Chicago area on February 11 and 12 as part of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Chicago Speaker Series.

“It’s hard to fathom the kind of people who ran these camps, and one always struggles to understand who they were and how they saw themselves,” says Erbelding. “These unique photographs vividly illustrate the contented world they enjoyed while overseeing a world of unimaginable suffering. The pictures offer an important perspective on the psychology of those perpetrating genocide.”

The album shows Auschwitz at a pivotal time — the period during which the gas chambers were operating at maximum efficiency — as the Hungarian Jews (the last remaining significant Jewish community in Europe) were brought to the camp and during the last months before its evacuation.

In her presentations, Erbelding will discuss the album, its significance and how it came to be a part of the Museum’s archives. The first program is on Wednesday, February 11 at 7 p.m. at Congregation B’nai Torah, 2789 Oak St., Highland Park, IL 60035.

The event is chaired by Laurie and Cary Glenner and Nancy and Marc Taxman.

The second program is on Thursday, February 12 at 7 p.m. at the Anshe Emet Synagogue, 3751 North Broadway, Chicago, IL 60613. The event is being chaired by Nancy Kohn and Art Friedson and Jeff Grinspoon and Jon Foley. Both programs are free and open to the public, but RSVP’s are requested at 847-604-1924.

The 116 new images represent a significant increase in the number of known pre-liberation images of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Previously, only about 320 images existed of the camp before its liberation by the Soviet army on January 27, 1945. (This figure does not include photographs of prisoners as they were processed into the camp for forced labor.)

This album complements the only other known collection of photographs taken at Auschwitz, published as the “Auschwitz Album” in 1980. Those images specifically depict the arrival of Hungarian Jews at the camp in late May 1944 and the selection process that the SS imposed on them. In contrast, some of the images contained in the new album taken just days later focus on the daily lives and recreational pursuits of Nazi officials, and no prisoner appears in any of the images.

In honor of the Museum’s 15th anniversary, the Museum is holding a series of public programs designed to provide supporters in the Chicago community with briefings on the institution’s work across the country and around the world. Previous programs included Refuge Denied: The St. Louis and the Holocaust held in December, featuring Museum researcher Scott Miller discussing his successful efforts to identify the fate of every passenger aboard the ill-fated refugee ship St. Louis. In May last year, Holocaust survivor and author Gerda Weissmann Klein discussed her experiences.

A living memorial to the Holocaust, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum inspires citizens and leaders to confront hatred, prevent genocide, promote human dignity and strengthen democracy. Its far-reaching educational programs and global impact are made possible by the generosity of donors nationwide through legacy and annual giving. For more information, visit www.ushmm.org.


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