A friend recently sent me a link to the Auschwitz Album, a rare set of photographs discovered by accident and donated to Yad Vashem.
At age 13 I stood in front of my grade 8 class, knees knocking nervously, mouth dry, to speak publicly for the first time. My subject? The Diary of Anne Frank. I’d stayed awake late into the night, captivated by the writings of a teenager’s diary. For the first time I became aware of the holocaust’s magnitude and the affect it had on an ordinary girl’s life, so aware I confronted shyness and stepped in front of my classmates to tell her story.
Anne stimulated my appetite for many books and movies on Jewish suffering. Almost two decades later, I discovered Corrie ten Boom and read about her concentration camp experiences. Corrie suffered not because she was Jewish but because she created a Hiding Place for Jews in danger. By a miracle Corrie was released a short while before all women in their fifties were gassed. She returned to Holland minus her father, her sister Betsy, her brother and a nephew. All died in camps.
Anne wasn’t released. Opportunities to travel the world and share her story, as Corrie did well into her eighties, never came. But, through her simple diary, she touched millions.
Anne, an ordinary teenager. Corrie, a humble spinster watchmaker. People powerless except for the power of their pens and their stories. The woman who discovered the Auschwitz Album is akin to them. She used a few pictures found in the pocket of a prison guard’s coat to let the world see the faces of people who died because hatred is irrational and violent.
My heart was moved by the faces of Jewish suffering, much like it was when I was 13. Some say we’ve had enough reminders of the holocaust. A glimpse of middle-east turmoil makes the possibility of another extermination seem possible. For that reason, the world needs more reminders, especially as we move into generations beyond the sufferers.
To view this album visit The Auschwitz Album.