Murdering Nazi Goons Are People Too

Via the Ministry, here’s a chilling look at off-duty SS officers and personnel at Auschwitz.

nazis resting between mass murders BREAK TIME:
Killing civilian prisoners in death factories is hard work.
Click for a closer look at the bastards (who are now relaxing in Hell)

Last December, Rebecca Erbelding, a young archivist at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, opened a letter from a former United States Army intelligence officer who said he wanted to donate photographs of Auschwitz he had found more than 60 years ago in Germany.

Ms. Erbelding was intrigued: Although Auschwitz may be the most notorious of the Nazi death camps, there are only a small number of known photos of the place before its liberation in 1945. Some time the next month, the museum received a package containing 16 cardboard pages, with photos pasted on both sides, and their significance quickly became apparent…

Rather than showing the men performing their death camp duties, the photos depicted, among other things, a horde of SS men singing cheerily to the accompaniment of an accordionist, [adjutant to the camp commandant Karl] Höcker lighting the camp’s Christmas tree, a cadre of young SS women frolicking and officers relaxing, some with tunics shed, for a smoking break.

You can view an audio slideshow of some of the photos here.

What makes it so amazing is that we know so many of the individuals’ names. Almost like they’re people or something. We even know the dog’s name, for crying out loud. It’s this sort of faux familiarity that made some sequences in ‘Schindler’s List’ so painful to watch.

Museum curators have avoided describing the album as something like –monsters at play” or –killers at their leisure.” [Museum historian Judith] Cohen said the photos were instructive in that they showed the murderers were, in some sense, people who also behaved as ordinary human beings. –In their self-image, they were good men, good comrades, even civilized,” she said.

Looking at these photos, it’s difficult to tell them apart from actual human beings.

Says Johno at the Ministry:

There’s one woman in the pictures, who appears a few times. She’s clearly a camp administrator of some kind, and she’s young, fresh, and pretty. She’s clearly vivacious and strong-willed; it’s easy to be attracted to this face from more than sixty years ago and imagine a friendship or a friendly beer. And then I realize that behind that smile and those pretty eyes is a mind completely and totally at ease with sorting families into keepers and corpses every single day, and I want to puke myself dry.

I’ve often wondered what the general feeling about the SS personnel who ran the camps compared to actual soldiers in SS combat units is. For all the evilness of the Nazi regime, the German army often displayed true (though misplaced) honor and obviously fought hard and well. How “stained” are SS combat units by the horrible actions of their brethren in the camps?

In the United States, the Nazis have been built up as the most vile and malevolent creatures in all of human history. These photos could be submitted as supporting evidence for that claim.

I hesitate to call these monsters ‘evil.’ It reflects poorly on regular evil people.


  1. Interesting photos although I’m not shocked. I’ve read books about the SS-Totenkopf Division. They often rotated wounded or exhausted troops and officers from combat assignments to the camps. Camp duty was regarded as an opportunity to rest, recover, and enjoy life for a little while. The ability to inflict cruelty and death on the prisoners was regarded as demonstration of good discipline and acceptance of Nazi ideology. While some Waffen SS Divisions were not associated with the camps, it was generally the same pool of men working the camps and achieving incredible battlefield exploits in the Totenkopf Division. The old image of the camp guards being cowardly bullies and not real soldiers has been pretty well debunked.

  2. I visited Auschwitz-Birkenau two summers ago. Many things were mind-boggling. It was one of the most mentally exhausting days of my life. Related to this post, the thing that stood out to me was how the camp commandant, Rudolf H+

  3. Those prison guards without a doubt did some horrific things which they will ultimately answer to God for, however, it is not for us to judge them as to where they ultimately go. Here’s a slide show about what can happen even in this country when a group of students is arbitrarly divided into two groups, guards and prisoners. Hell, I work in an industry where I see people make poor moral choices every day based on the fact that there is a monetary incentive to do the wrong thing. While many of these people may disappoint me, often on a daily basis, I know there is good in most them waiting to be tapped.

  4. Interesting pictures, in that they convey the sense that you can never really be sure what lies behind the smile and apparent normalcy. John Wayne Gacy, in addition to killing 33+ teenagers and young men, was also a respected political operative for the local Democratic precinct machine who was well known for his parties. Dressing up as a clown should have been a dead giveaway for the true evil that lurked, though. I suggest a pretty good book on the flip side of Nazi atrocites entitled ‘The Search for Major Plagge: The Nazi Who Saved Jews’, by Michael Good. Karl Plagge, the German Army officer who saved hundreds of Jews in the Vilnia camps in Lithuania, was one of the earliest members of the Nazi party, although early on he could see what they were all about and basically let his membership lapse throughout the mid 30s until the regime fell. Whereas in the picture highlighted in Murdoc’s initial post shows a bunch of pretty relaxed and happy SS personnel, two pictures side by side in the book will contrast the stress Major Plagge felt during his duty in Lithuania, contrasted with one taken about 10 years after the war showing him in a pretty relaxed state at his Godson’s confirmation. Clearly, this is a man who carried a heavy weight on his shoulders, trying to do the right thing in the face of so much brutality that was being carried out in his AO.

  5. Hey, I like this site. Cause Murdoc reads the same stuff I do, maybe. Anyway, the entire album can be seen (along with some clinically dry commentary; I guess they think the album speaks for itself) at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. Very powerful place to visit. Don’t take your Shoah-survivor dad there like a friend of mine did, though: TOO powerful. The Holocaust Museum contrasts this staff officer’s album with another album that a young girl found after the war, official SS shots of the ‘selection’, in which she saw her lost brothers. That selection pic was on the same day as some of these R&R shots. I wonder if the R&R place, Solah++tte, is still there near Auschwitz? Auschwitz is the ultimate Holocaust tourism destination. The Poles preserved it as it was. Camps like Dachau, which more Americans have visited, have been reconstructed and somewhat sterilized (they are still chilling and creepy) because the original barracks were burned down to fight typhus after liberation. Jerry mentioned a book I’ll have to read. I’ll also recommend another, if you want to try to understand these people. The Einsatzgr++ppen Reports is published by Yad Vashem. These are actual reports from the initial units that exterminated Jews by shooting. Some surprizes: some Jews did resist with arms, and this scared hell out of the Nazis. Two other books I have, blanking on the titles right now, cover the subject. One gives capsule biographies of eight camp commanders (the author concludes that these guys were basically losers, who were able to get prestige by joining the Nazis). Another is an in-depth report on the actions of a single police battalion. These guys were basically street cops who were drafted into a militarized unit, and then sent East to shoot Jews. What’s interesting is that some individuals refused those orders, saying they couldn’t morally do it. You’d think the Nazis would have punished them, but nothing happened to them. On the other hand, guards at the camps who aided inmates (there were some cases) were courtmartialed and in at least some cases became inmates themselves. They were in the category of inmates like OSS and SOE agents, in that when the camp closed or was transferred, if not before, they were generally shot. It’s almost as if with the spies and traitors (in inverted Nazi morality, an SS man helping Jews hide is a traitor), it was a grudge matter, but with the Jews it was just business. Like the Holocaust Museum says, they weren’t monsters in all things, they were men like us. But they did monstrous things. Personally, I apply the Forrest Gump’s Mama’s Test: Monster is as monster does. These guys lounging in the sun sure qualify. By the way, the photo album belonged to the KZ adjutant. He was tried after the war and did a few years in prison, then returned to his job as a junior executive of his hometown bank. He died in bed. PS — one last thing. This album contains the first photos ever to document Dr Mengele’s presence in Auschwitz. One more brick dropped on the holocaust deniers.

  6. I don’t think we should take form this that all men have some good in them (even evil monsters). What this (that ‘ordinary’ men could do these things) shows is that all men have evil in them. Take our nation. Right now we have a holocaust going on. Abortion. Thousands of babies are killed because they are inconvenient financially. Or because people want to live without the consequences of their actions. Or because they are somehow ‘defective’. This is on par with the holocaust and is virtually ignored. No it doesn’t take any special breed of ‘evil’ person for this stuff to happen just the normal evil is sufficient. And for ‘good’ people to do nothing. ‘To him who know to do good and does not do it to him it is sin.’ – James 4:17