On one of the nicest, sunniest days we had in Europe, my sister, brother-in-law, and I picked through Vienna’s Naschmarkt, a large outdoor market where people sell antiques, books, clothes, and other random things (such as a large stuffed and lacquered former sea turtle). We were most interested in the antiques, and spent a long time searching through old brooches, tin boxes, doll’s clothes and cooking utensils, buttons, and opera glasses, even spotting a few odder and more chilling items such as old passports carrying swastikas from Austria’s period as part of the Third Reich.

While shopping around, my sister and I wandered on without her husband, who went back to look at a stall we’d already passed. My sister and I came to a stall where the owner was selling old photo albums will all the photos still inside. I love old photographs, and am particularly interested in old snapshots that no one has bothered to keep. I think there’s something poetic about pictures of family vacations that someone wanted to remember, but that have been cast off, all the people in the photo forgotten. I also love puppies, and never having been allowed to own one as a kid, this repressed affection usually manifests itself in over-the-top squeals when I see a little dog or a cute picture of one. So, when my sister found a small album with snapshots of a girl, her dog, and her husband, my sister decided to get it for me. “She’s just like you!” my sister commented as we flipped through the photographs of the girl teaching her dog tricks and the portraits the girl took of her fuzzy companion.






My sister bargained the stall owner from 15 Euro down to 10, and we strolled away with our adorable find. Upon finding my brother-in-law, we showed him the album of the young couple playing with their dog, taking him for walks, or posing next to what we guessed to be their new radio, which was sitting on their shelf below a framed wedding photo. My brother-in-law took one look at the album and pointed out, “He’s a Nazi.”


Indeed, my sister and I had been so taken with the sweet silliness of the album, and the slightly sad tone of such a cute book having been disowned and sold at a market, that we didn’t notice the young man’s uniform. While there is little written in the book, captions give the dates January and February 1944. The book suddenly seemed less innocent, and instead, a source of questions. Was this guy really a Nazi? We searched for his uniform online, and think he may have been in the air force. Was he conscripted, or a strong believer in the party’s ideals? Where did this young couple manage to get a new radio in 1944? Was it someone’s confiscated property, or did the couple buy the radio? What were they listening to on it, anyway? Why is the book only half filled with photos, and why was it on sale in the market? Could it be that the young man went back to war and was killed? There was now something strange about their happy smiles and almost nervous affectionate manner with each other in the pictures, something strange about the silly photos of the young family and their puppy. They still look out from the photos with candid and innocent grins, but who knows what this young man had done, and who knows how he or his wife felt about it.

My little album has been complicated by the man’s uniform, but this is hardly a watershed find. In 2007 the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum received a donation of the Höcker photo album, showing many of the top officers of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp at their nearby resort in 1944, enjoying blueberries and relaxing with a group of lady typists at, “the period during which the gas chambers were operating at maximum efficiency—as the Hungarian Jews arrived and during the last months before the evacuation of the camp” (USHMM Website). The Höcker album stands in sharp contrast to the Auschwitz Album of the same period, which shows the arrival of a large group of Hungarian Jews at Auschwitz, as well as the selection process where individuals were chosen for slave labour or sent to the gas chambers. You can watch a short documentary about the Höcker album, where Judy Cohen tells us, “We all know that monsters do monstrous things. But when you see people who look like they’re nice guys, in a fairly benign setting, and we know for a fact that they were doing monstrous things, then it raises all sorts of questions about what’s man’s capacity for evil. In a different setting would they still be monsters?” (USHMM Website).

Like my sister said, the girl in my album is just like me. A girl who likes small dogs and hanging out with her loved ones. A girl who likes to listen to the radio. Her husband also looks like a nice guy—but was he? The photos in my album don’t show enough to absolve or condemn the couple—just a uniform that could mean a number of different things. Aside from the fact that they like dogs, radios, and each other, not much else about this pair is evident from the book. However, my album could be a slice of one of the many disturbing truths about the Nazis—as Joseph White puts it, “they were all too frighteningly human” (USHMM Website).

All There Is To Know About Adolph Eichmann
From Flowers for Hitler by Leonard Cohen

EYES:………………………………………………………………….Medium
HAIR:………………………………………………………………….Medium
WEIGHT:……………………………………………………………Medium
HEIGHT:…………………………………………………………….Medium
DISTINGUISHING FEATURES:……………………………None
NUMBER OF FINGERS:…………………………………………..Ten
NUMBER OF TOES:………………………………………………….Ten
INTELLIGENCE:……………………………………………….Medium

What did you expect?
Talons?
Oversize incisors?
Green saliva?

Madness?

Helen Hajnoczky has a thing for old photographs and nostalgia. Her first book, Poets and Killers: A Life in Advertising, is forthcoming from Snare Books.