FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(WASHINGTON, D.C. - April 10, 2008) The death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau is considered ground zero for the killings during the Holocaust, a place where the Nazis and their collaborators murdered more than one million people. And while history has clearly judged those responsible for the killings, the world has never really seen what their world was like inside the camp...until now. These one-of-a-kind photos from a newly discovered album are far from the gruesome iconic images of living skeletons or ash-choked ovens - they show life from the other side of the barbed wire, where the banality of evil is left behind for Nazi cocktail parties and sing-a-longs. This album is nothing short of a scrapbook from hell.
On Sunday, April 27, 2008 at 9 p.m. ET/PT, the National Geographic Channel (NGC) journeys back to Auschwitz to witness Nazi life beyond the death camp in Nazi Scrapbooks from Hell. Woven together with harrowing testimonials from survivors and scholars, archival audio, video footage and haunting trial statements by an SS officer, the special brings to life these fascinating and disturbing photographs of Auschwitz and challenges viewers to contemplate the individual's capacity for evil.
Presented to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in January 2007 by an anonymous donor, the album was originally compiled by Karl Höcker, an SS officer who served as the assistant to the commandant of the Auschwitz complex during some of the most murderous months of the camp's existence. He took photos of the most senior SS officers laughing, frolicking, drinking and engaging in recreational activities - as if Auschwitz were an enjoyable place to live.
The album even contains the first authenticated pictures of the notorious Josef Mengele at Auschwitz, where he conducted many of his gruesome and cruel medical experiments. Höcker also appears in many photos in the album, but is rarely referenced in historical records, as he was acquitted of involvement in genocide - a controversy that may now be given new perspective.
Michael Berenbaum, director of Ziering Holocaust Institute in Bel Air, California, describes the ironic nature of the album: "Here what you see is, you see the faces of killers who were trying to unwind. 'Boy we had a tough day at the office. It was hard out there.' And these were men who...took a professional pride in what they were doing. That doesn't make it right. It was awful. It was evil. It was horrendous. It was terrible. But it was significant."
The special also examines the only other photo album of images from the summer of 1944 at Auschwitz. Taken at the end of May 1944 by SS officers who photographed Jews as they arrived by train, the "Auschwitz Album," found after liberation by Holocaust survivor Lilly Jacob, provides the only known surviving visual evidence of the selection process at Auschwitz-Birkenau. In a fascinating twist, Karl Höcker arrived at the camp only one day before Lilly Jacob and may appear in one of the photos, selecting prisoners for the gas chamber. The contemporaneous albums sharply juxtapose the horrific fate awaiting those innocent prisoners with that of the privileged life led by those overseeing genocide.
One of the mysteries surrounding Höcker's role at the camp is whether or not he was present on the ramp where prisoners were selected for gassing. In postwar trials, Höcker maintained that he was not involved in the selection process. While accounts from survivors and other SS officers all but placed him there, no conclusive evidence could be located proving the claim, thus sparing him from a likely death sentence. Using images of Höcker from the newly discovered album, the special follows forensic experts applying state-of-the-art photo analysis as they attempt to verify Höcker's identity in the images from the "Auschwitz Album."
From the hideous irony of Auschwitz's most senior SS officers drinking on work breaks, to their pious lighting of a Christmas tree, this album reveals a world where mass murder is reduced to the mundane.
The archives of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum are now home to the 116 photographs of the Höcker album. To view the album online, visit www.ushmm.org/ssalbum.
Nazi Scrapbooks from Hell is produced by Creative Differences Productions, Inc. for National Geographic Channel. Executive producers are Erik Nelson and Dave Harding. For National Geographic Channel, executive producer is Kathleen Cromley; senior vice president of special programming is Michael Cascio; and executive vice president of content is Steve Burns.
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National Geographic Channel
Based at the National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, D.C., the National Geographic Channel (NGC) is a joint venture between National Geographic Ventures (NGV) and Fox Cable Networks (FCN). Since launching in January 2001, NGC initially earned some of the fastest distribution growth in the history of cable and more recently the fastest ratings growth in television. The network celebrated its fifth anniversary in January 2006 with the launch of NGC HD, which provides the spectacular imagery that National Geographic is known for in stunning high-definition. NGC has carriage with all of the nation's major cable and satellite television providers, making it currently available to nearly 66 million homes. For more information, please visit www.nationalgeographic.com/channel.
U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
A living memorial to the Holocaust, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum was created to inspire leaders and citizens to confront hatred, prevent genocide, promote human dignity and strengthen democracy. Federal support guarantees the Museum's permanence, and donors nationwide make possible its educational activities and global outreach. For more information, visit http://www.ushmm.org/.
Russell Howard, National Geographic Channel, 202-912-6652, RHoward@natgeochannel.com
Chris Albert, National Geographic Channel, 202-912-6526, CAlbert@natgeochannel.com
Andrew Hollinger, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, 202-488-6133, AHollinger@ushmm.org
National Broadcast: Dara Klatt, 202-912-6720, Dara.Klatt@natgeochannel.com
National & Local Radio: Johanna Ramos Boyer, 703-646-5137, Johanna@jrbcomm.com
National Print: Christie Parell, The Fratelli Group, 202-496-2124, CParell@fratelli.com
Local Print: Licet Ariza, The Fratelli Group, 202-496-2122, LAriza@fratelli.com
Photos: Heather Huston, National Geographic Channel, 202-912-6536, email@example.com