“The Auschwitz Photographer: The Forgotten Story of the WWII Prisoner Who Documented Thousands of Lost Souls”
Luca Crippa & Maurizio Onnis
Published 2013, Sourcebooks 978-1-7282-4220-0
A photograph of violets – black and white, but touched with color showing that – “. . . beauty existed even in Auschwitz . . .” provides a very mixed message. How could there be beauty amidst the horrors? Wilhelm Brasse, young and talented, found a niche in which to survive in the notorious death camp. Given the job of photographing soldiers, prisoners, and the patients of Dr. Mengele, Brasse captured a moment of humanity for the victims even if the taking of a photograph meant the end of their lives was nigh. Witness to medical experiments, he managed to keep hold of his soul while creating evidence to the atrocities committed.
“The photographs he’d been taking every day for years contained the memory of all the people involved: prisoners, prison guards, corrupt and twisted doctors. He was fast becoming the custodian of these images. They were all catalogued in his archive, placed in their correct groups – victors and oppressors with other victors and oppressors, victims with other victims.”
Brasse played a role as resister in the camp, using his photography as an excuse and vehicle to deliver medicine to the women in Birkenau and to create false papers for escapees. He refused to burn the evidence of the horrors of Auschwitz-Birkenau, instead, sealed it in his studio to await the arrival of the Russian liberators. His efforts successfully preserved thousands of photographs; the images he captured representing lives remembered.