Last month, a man approached the New York Times with a mystery: He discovered in his possession a World War II-era photo album–which included pictures of deported Jews alongside photographs of Adolf Hitler and other Nazi officials. The latter were taken from an intimate distance.
The man, a 72-year-old fashion executive, desperately needed to pay medical bills, and wanted to auction the album. However, he didn’t know anything about it–where it came from, or, more vitally, who could have taken the photographs in it. Because of the Hitler pictures, it would need to have been someone with access to the Nazi party. But where did the pictures of Jews fit in?
Just a few hours after these questions were posted on a NYTimes blog, answers came from Times readers all over the world. The photographer’s name was Franz Krieger. He was an SS officer who later became a propaganda photographer. Kriger had access to Hitler and other high-ranking officials, and he was present at major Jewish deportations. His wife and daughter were killed in 1944 during American bombings. Later, he quit the propaganda wing and became a supply truck driver for the German army.
After the war, Krieger abandoned his career in photography and became a businessman. His albums were given away–perhaps, suggests the Times, as a way of leaving the past behind him. Krieger died in 1993. The album, as far as we know, hasn’t yet been put up for auction.
August 12, 2011