Monday, April 03, 2006


250_auschwitz_IMG_0615.jpgIt took me awhile to recover after seeing this image. A detail from The Auschwitz Album: The Story of a Transport, now on display at the Field Museum in Chicago, it was taken by an SS Officer on the day these individuals disembarked at Auschwitz.

It was taken before they’ve been selected for the “showers” or as laborers; before they’ve been shaved, stripped of their clothing, depersonalized. They look concerned and wholly human. It appears that the gentleman first in line may be trying to reason with the German officer who roughly handles him by the lapel, or at least lighten the moment with a comment or two.

We know, as spectators to their misfortune, that if they are selected as laborers they may hope to live another three months, in the worst possible conditions. And we know, with the luxury of history, that this is just a brief glimpse into a much larger horror that will continue to unfold for some time yet to come.

And it's likely that they know none of the things that we know about this moment in their lives. The whole exhibit is like this: shots horrifying in their mundanity.


patrick said...

I ended up seeing this yesterday and was floored, much more shaken than I've been after seeing other exhibits on the Holocaust. These people still had their identities, their emotions, their spirit. So saddening.

I also couldn't help but think how this was only 60 years ago and in a "civilized" country. How much have we advanced when our country has taken people who merely "might know something" and kept them in a Kafka-esque limbo or in cages like animals for 3 years...and who knows what's going on in those black sites? I couldn't help but think of the Phillip Roth book "The Plot Against America" as it's not really that much of a stretch for something like this to happen here. Just look what's going on here with Mexican immigrants.

Thanks for reccommending the exhibit, I'm so glad I went...sorry about the rant! ;-)

suttonhoo said...

tremendous, wasn't it? so glad you caught the exhibit.

re Guantánamo -- I scribbled this down from a NYT story back in December:

"In January [2005], for example, after 23 Guantánamo detainees tried to hang or strangle themselves, the Pentagon said that only two were 'suicide attempts.' It called the others 'self-injurious behavior incidents.' Military officials said there were only four suicide attempts this year [in 2005], though they did not say how many 'self-injurious' incidents had occurred."

things always seem to go South in a hurry when we lose sight of our shared humanity.

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