The New York Times contains an article today about photographs donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. The photos seem benign enough; they look pretty much like the photographs in my Grandfather’s albums from the 30s and 40s, pictures like the one below, pictures of him and his family and friends frolicking.
The photos are so similar in appearance, but yet so different: The photos are pictures of Nazis at Aushchwitz prior to the liberation of the concentration camps. There are pictures of soldiers and nurses relaxing in lounge chairs, listening to music and singing along to someone playing an accordion, and eating blueberries. There is even a picture of a group of them, and one woman is holding a baby lovingly.
The horror of the photographs to me is not the unspoken subtext of torture and death that took place on the same day and in the same location these photos were taken. The haunting and horrific facet of the photos is that these are not the faces of evil I imagined. These people look so normal, so happy, so carefree, and so similar to you and me.