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Monday, May 24, 2021


A profound book, a respectful one, and that too is important, to the subjects, their families, their people and to history itself. (Review by Christine E Hann)

I knew before I started reading The Auschwitz Photographer that it was going to be a difficult book to read, evoking images from a segment of history that must seem unimaginable to many of today’s youth. Faced with words and photographs and segments of the stories behind the images was heart-rending. I am in awe of the ability of any man to survive such circumstances, and to live through, and on to a long life – one in which he continued to make a difference to in those around him.

The book is based on the true story of Wilhelm Brasse (prisoner 3444), who was deported to Auschwitz as a political prisoner in August of 1940. He suffered the extreme cruelties of camp life until February of 1941, when his fluent German and skills as a photographer saw him moved to the camp Identification Service. His life then was centred on his commando in Block 28, and the 40 to 50,000 photographs he took from then till the end of the war in 1945. He risked his life by becoming part of the resistance, to smuggle out messages and photographs in their efforts to let the greater world know what was happening in the camp. In the final days, he was able to preserve and “save” many of the images he had taken, as a final record of the German atrocities.

Readers are further mentally assaulted by the knowledge that the Photographer was also used to record images of the medical subjects and experiments that took place in the camps, some of which I knew about, but to envisage from his view, and to live another day! Unimaginable, as I have said. And that is the thread you come back to - living each day, with the hope that there will be another.

The book ends with a segment called A True Story – concise names, details, that following the chapters before, silences you further. A profound book, a respectful one, and that too is important, to the subjects, their families, their people and to history itself. A book about life and death, in a death camp, written through the lens of one man.

The Auschwitz Photographer is written by Maurizio Onnis and Luca Crippa. Onnis is an anthropologist, who has travelled developing countries extensively, and has studied the history of religions and cultures. He has written historical novels and screenplays. Crippa is an Italian philosopher and a writer of several history text books, essays, historical novels, and documentaries. He has worked as a research professor and editorial consultant for many years.

The Auschwitz Photographer is translated from Italian to English by Jennifer Higgins and published by Penguin Random House UK – 2021. ISBN: 9780857527462 – Christine E Hann