The Auschwitz Photographer opening line: Wilhelm Brasse switched on the enlarger and a bright beam of white light fell on to the sheet of photographic paper.
Wilhelm Brasse was inmate 3444 in Auschwitz. His skills as a photographer were noted and used to document all incoming prisoners. Until it was decided that there was no point. Why bother taking images of people who would be burnt in the gas chambers before the day was out? It was then that his skills were put to use by the worst of the worst.
The Auschwitz Photographer
The extraordinary true story of Wilhelm Brasse, the Auschwitz prisoner whose photographs exposed the atrocities of the Holocaust and then helped to convict the Nazis at the Nuremberg Trials.‘I looked death in the eyes. I did it fifty thousand times…’ – Wilhelm BrasseWhen Germany invaded Wilhelm Brasse’s native Poland in 1939, he was asked to swear allegiance to Hitler and join the Wehrmacht. He refused. He was deported to Auschwitz concentration camp as political prisoner number 3444. A trained portrait photographer, he was ordered by the SS to record the inner workings of the camp. He began by taking identification photographs of the prisoners as they entered the camp, went on to capture the criminal medical experiments of Josef Mengele, and also recorded executions. Between 1940 and 1945, Brasse took around 50,000 photographs of the horror around him. He took them because he had no choice.Eventually, Brasse’s conscience wouldn’t allow him to hide behind his camera. First he risked his life by joining the camp’s Resistance movement, faking documents for prisoners, trying to smuggle images to the outside world to reveal what was happening. Then, when Soviet troops finally advanced on the camp to liberate it, Brasse refused SS orders to destroy his photographs. ‘Because the world must know,’ he said.
It took me over a year to be in the right state of mind to read this book. And it comes with a warning, some of the photographs are disturbing and haunting. His bravery and mental fortitude means that for many people they know what happened to their family members. They did not disappear without a trace! And forever we need to remember that the Nazi’s need to record everything means that proof exists of the horrors they inflicted on millions of people.
Penguin Random House South Africa sent me this novel to review.
Take a look at what was previously posted on Lavender and Lime on July 3: