Picks and Pans Review: The Auschwitz Album

updated 02/22/1982 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/22/1982 AT 01:00 AM EST

text by Peter Hellman

On April 11, 1945, Lili Jacob, a Hungarian Jew, and the other inmates of Dora, a Nazi concentration camp in western Germany, were liberated by American troops. Jacob, rummaging through a German barracks for clothes to keep warm, chanced on an album of photographs of Hungarian Jews arriving at the camp at Auschwitz, 400 miles away, where she herself had spent seven months. When she opened the album she saw members of her own family and neighbors from the village of Bilke, in photographs probably taken by SS officer Ernst Hofmann. She kept the album through the trek home to Hungary and a later move to New York in 1948. But while she offered some photos from it as evidence in a 1964 war crimes trial in Germany, the album came to public attention only in 1980. This stunning book also includes straightforward text by Peter Hellman, a historian of the era. He scoured the memoirs of Auschwitz survivors for quotations that offer telling commentary on the pictures of Nazi officers casually sorting Jews into groups that would be sent to die and those that would become slaves. The terrible faces and anguishing stories are by now familiar. But with this nightmare, familiarity doesn't lend any comfort. It just magnifies the horror. (Random House, $23.50)

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