Reconstructing the Photographs from the Lili Jacobs Album from Auschwitz-Birkenau
For more than six decades and the first publication, the “Lili Jacobs album” have become the main representation not only of Auschwitz-Birkenau but also of the Holocaust itself. The photos from “Lili Jacobs album” have been displayed in every Holocaust museum and used to illustrate the “final solution” in countless books and documentaries.
But, while being a vital source, neither the album nor the photographs have ever been analyzed at depth. Instead of highlighting that the album shows a very special situation the narrative of the album became to represent Auschwitz or even the Holocaust at large. Yet, the album was made by SS, for high ranking SS and Nazis, with a special purpose and is on many levels staged, showing only what was needed to be shown for this special purpose – i e. showing the success and swiftness of the so called Hungarian action in Auschwitz-Birkenau.
By deconstructing the album, breaking the narrative forged by the makers of the album a new perspectives emerges. While the album is commonly seen as being a set of pictures of a single transport, the research project we are currently working on (with Stefan Hördler) shows that at least half a dozen transports were photographed. Various series (i.e. reels) can be reconstructed to different extends. While allowing us new insight into the selection and plunder of the Hungarian Jews in Auschwitz-Birkenau, the methods of creating the album and the shortcomings of looking at it now will also be underlined.