Summer getaway for the monsters of Auschwitz: Chilling images show Nazis sunbathing on


Chilling photos show the Nazis of Auschwitz enjoying holidays and weekends in the shadow of the WWII death camp, with female staff happily posing for pictures, officers sunbathing in deck chairs and a gas chamber supervisor listening to music.

The candid images give insight into the parallel lives lived by the officers and guards who worked at Auschwitz as 1.1 million people were murdered in the gas chambers nearby.

Many of the most unsettling photographs were taken at Solahütte, a recreation resort less than 20 miles south of Auschwitz on the Sola River, which prisoners had been forced to build for the captors’ enjoyment. 

The images are among 116 taken during the last six months of Auschwitz, between June 1944 and January 1945 when it was liberated by the Soviet Red Army. They were discovered in a photo album that had been put together by one of the death camp’s officers.

The cheerful pictures offer no clue that their subjects were at the time running the extermination camp during its most lethal period, coinciding with the murder of 400,000 Hungarian Jews.

A Nazi officer and a group of women relax in deck chairs near the Auschwitz concentration camp during WWII

A Nazi officer and a group of women relax in deck chairs near the Auschwitz concentration camp during WWII

A line of female staff enjoy fresh fruit at a woodland retreat near Auschwitz - where more than 1 million people were put to death

A line of female staff enjoy fresh fruit at a woodland retreat near Auschwitz – where more than 1 million people were put to death

A Nazi can be seen lighting Yule Trees at the Auschwitz camp in the Christmas period of 1944- shortly before the camp was liberated

A Nazi can be seen lighting Yule Trees at the Auschwitz camp in the Christmas period of 1944- shortly before the camp was liberated

An officer and a dog a pictured in one snap which was part of the album collected by Karl Höcker

An officer and a dog a pictured in one snap which was part of the album collected by Karl Höcker

Uniformed women pose for a picture with Nazi officers at Solahütte, an SS resort less than 20 miles south of Auschwitz

Uniformed women pose for a picture with Nazi officers at Solahütte, an SS resort less than 20 miles south of Auschwitz

A photograph from the photo album shows a group of officers enjoying a meal and drinks

A photograph from the photo album shows a group of officers enjoying a meal and drinks

Nazi guards enjoy a musical performance and sing along in a wooded area near Auschwitz

Nazi guards enjoy a musical performance and sing along in a wooded area near Auschwitz

The haunting collection of black and white images was found by an unnamed American counterintelligence officer who was billeted in Frankfurt after Germany‘s surrender in 1945.

Auschwitz-Birkenau, also known as Auschwitz II, was the biggest Nazi concentration camp, established by the Germans in 1941 in the Polish village of Brzezinka. 

The captions of the photographs, and the people featured in the images, quickly confirmed to archivists that it depicts life in and around the Auschwitz camps.

The very first photograph is a double portrait of Richard Baer, the last Auschwitz camp commandant between 1944 and 1945, and Baer’s adjutant, Karl Höcker.

The album was compiled by Höcker, and depicts chillingly candid pictures of other noted SS camp officers, including Rudolf Höss, Josef Kramer, Franz Hössler and Dr. Josef Mengele. 

These are the only known photographs of some of these men taken at the Auschwitz complex.

The album includes documentation of official visits and ceremonies, but also personal photographs depicting SS social activities.

Chronologically the final photographs show the lighting of a Yule tree and a hunting trip the first week of January.

Only two weeks later, the SS began evacuating the camp, and the Soviet Army liberated the remaining prisoners on January 27, 1945.

The very first photograph in the photograph album is a double portrait of Richard Baer (on left), the last Auschwitz camp commandant between 1944 and 1945, and Baer's adjutant, Karl Höcker

The very first photograph in the photograph album is a double portrait of Richard Baer (on left), the last Auschwitz camp commandant between 1944 and 1945, and Baer’s adjutant, Karl Höcker

Uniformed women pose for a picture with a male Nazi at Solahütte with Höcker

Uniformed women pose for a picture with a male Nazi at Solahütte with Höcker

Nazi officers and women in nurses uniform are seen smiling and laughing in one of the photographs

Nazi officers and women in nurses uniform are seen smiling and laughing in one of the photographs

The photos are now the subject of a play that opened last month off-broadway, the 2024 Pulitzer Prize for Drama finalist Here There Are Blueberries.

The play dramatises the work of the curators who examined the mysterious album that arrived at the desk of a U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) archivist in 2007.

The play’s title refers to series of images showing young ladies perched on a fence laughing and enjoying their fruit. Notably, one woman is seen seemingly mock crying as her fruit runs out.

Höss, who was the longest serving commandant of Auschwitz and personally oversaw mass murder there for more than three years, was recently the subject of a major film called The Zone of Interest.

The haunting movie is based on the real life story of Höss, his wife and five children, who lived just outside the walls of the concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.

The play Here There Are Blueberries references pictures of ladies at the retreat eating blueberries

The play Here There Are Blueberries references pictures of ladies at the retreat eating blueberries

The candid photographs from Höcker's collection show him and two other senior Nazis reviewing a document

The candid photographs from Höcker’s collection show him and two other senior Nazis reviewing a document

Uniformed men and women can be seen socialising in the black and white photographs

Uniformed men and women can be seen socialising in the black and white photographs

Their home just 150 metres from the crematorium’s chimney – which pumped out ash and smoke day and night.

The family’s seemingly idyllic lives are recounted in the film, which never shows the horrors which were happening just over the wall.

‘Every wish that my wife or children expressed was granted to them,’ Höss wrote in his autobiography. ‘My wife’s garden was a paradise of flowers.’

Höss was appointed commandant of Auschwitz, in the west of Nazi-occupied Poland, in May 1940, when it housed political prisoners. Pictured in 1947

Höss was appointed commandant of Auschwitz, in the west of Nazi-occupied Poland, in May 1940, when it housed political prisoners. Pictured in 1947

The film stars German actors Christian Friedel (pictured) and Sandra Hüller as Höss and his wife Hedwig

The film stars German actors Christian Friedel (pictured) and Sandra Hüller as Höss and his wife Hedwig

The family left Auschwitz in November 1944, when Höss moved to Ravensbrück women’s concentration camp north of Germany’s capital Berlin, to oversee further extermination of political prisoners and Jews.

After Nazi Germany’s defeat in the Second World War in 1945, Höss evaded capture for nearly a year before being arrested.

The mass killer was eventually sentenced to death in 1947 and was hanged outside – next to the crematorium at Auschwitz.

British filmmaker Jonathan Glazer, who was behind The Zone of Interest, told the New York Times his mission behind making a film showing the ‘normal’ elements of the Höss family’s life.

Nazi officers take part in target practice. The picture collection shows their lives in and around Auschwitz

Nazi officers take part in target practice. The picture collection shows their lives in and around Auschwitz

The album was compiled by Höcker, and depicts chillingly candid pictures of other noted SS camp officers

The album was compiled by Höcker, and depicts chillingly candid pictures of other noted SS camp officers

A Nazi can be seen smiling while eating at a dinner party and drinking wine at the Auschwitz camp built in 1941

Chronologically the final photographs show the lighting of a Yule tree and a hunting trip the first week of January

Chronologically the final photographs show the lighting of a Yule tree and a hunting trip the first week of January

‘I wanted to dismantle the idea of them as anomalies, as almost supernatural,’ he said.

‘You know, the idea that they came from the skies and ran amok, but thank God that’s not us and it’s never going to happen again. I wanted to show that these were crimes committed by Mr. and Mrs. Smith at No. 26.’

Similarly, the photos of Höss and other Auschwitz staff on holiday also show the mundane nature of their lives outside the camp.

Rebecca Erbelding, the museum archivist who recognised the significance of the photos, previously told the Washington Post: ‘They do not look evil (the Nazis); they’re smiling. They’re playing with their dogs. They look like they might resemble a neighbour that you have. And, yes, that is correct, that humans have this capacity.’

Höcker, who compiled the album of the ‘good times’ he enjoyed at the Auschwitz complex, joined the SS in 1933 and the Nazi party in 1937.

The holiday resort for the Nazis was so workers and the SS could enjoy a break from the horrors of the extermination camp next door

The holiday resort for the Nazis was so workers and the SS could enjoy a break from the horrors of the extermination camp next door

Höcker, who compiled the album of the 'good times' he enjoyed at the Auschwitz complex, joined the SS in 1933 and the Nazi party in 1937

Höcker, who compiled the album of the ‘good times’ he enjoyed at the Auschwitz complex, joined the SS in 1933 and the Nazi party in 1937

He was captured by British troops after another camps surrender, Dora-Mittelbau, in April 1945, but was released in 1946 because it was not known he was an SS officer.

He was eventually sentenced to seven years in prison for aiding and abetting the murders of at least 1,000 people and to a further four years in prison in 1989 for aiding and abetting a triple murder of 20 people at a time.

Höcker died on January 30, 2000 after he had been released from prison in October 1992 and returned to his family in Lübbecke. 

Solahütte was converted into a restaurant at the Międzybrodzie Bialskie holiday resort, before the building was eventually demolished in 2011. 

The Nazis’ concentration and extermination camps: The factories of death used to slaughter millions 

Auschwitz-Birkenau, near the town of Oswiecim, in what was then occupied Poland

Auschwitz-Birkenau was a concentration and extermination camp used by the Nazis during World War Two.

The camp, which was located in Nazi-occupied Poland, was made up of three main sites.

Auschwitz I, the original concentration camp, Auschwitz II-Birkenau, a combined concentration and extermination camp and Auschwitz III–Monowitz, a labour camp, with a further 45 satellite sites.

Auschwitz, pictured in 1945, was liberated by Soviet troops 76 years ago on Wednesday after around 1.1million people were murdered at the Nazi extermination camp

Auschwitz, pictured in 1945, was liberated by Soviet troops 76 years ago on Wednesday after around 1.1million people were murdered at the Nazi extermination camp 

Auschwitz was an extermination camp used by the Nazis in Poland to murder more than 1.1 million Jews

Birkenau became a major part of the Nazis’ ‘Final Solution’, where they sought to rid Europe of Jews.

An estimated 1.3 million people were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau, of whom at least 1.1 million died – around 90 percent of which were Jews.

Since 1947, it has operated as Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, which in 1979 was named a World Heritage Site by Unesco.

Treblinka, near a village of the same name, outside Warsaw in Nazi-occupied Poland

Unlike at other camps, where some Jews were assigned to forced labour before being killed, nearly all Jews brought to Treblinka were immediately gassed to death.

Only a select few – mostly young, strong men, were spared from immediate death and assigned to maintenance work instead.

Unlike at other camps, where some Jews were assigned to forced labor before being killed, nearly all Jews brought to Treblinka were immediately gassed to death

Unlike at other camps, where some Jews were assigned to forced labor before being killed, nearly all Jews brought to Treblinka were immediately gassed to death

The death toll at Treblinka was second only to Auschwitz. In just 15 months of operation – between July 1942 and October 1943 – between 700,000 and 900,000 Jews were murdered in its gas chambers.

Exterminations stopped at the camp after an uprising which saw around 200 prisoners escape. Around half of them were killed shortly afterwards, but 70 are known to have survived until the end of the war

Belzec, near the station of the same name in Nazi-occupied Poland

Belzec operated from March 1942 until the end of June 1943. It was built specifically as an extermination camp as part of Operation Reinhard. 

Polish, German, Ukrainian and Austrian Jews were all killed there. In total, around 600,000 people were murdered.

The camp was dismantled in 1943 and the site was disguised as a fake farm.  

Belzec operated from March 1942 until the end of June 1943. It was built specifically as an extermination camp as part of Operation Reinhard

Belzec operated from March 1942 until the end of June 1943. It was built specifically as an extermination camp as part of Operation Reinhard

Sobibor, near the village of the same name in Nazi-occupied Poland

Sobibor was named after its closest train station, at which Jews disembarked from extremely crowded carriages, unsure of their fate. 

Jews from Poland, France, Germany, the Netherlands and the Soviet Union were killed in three gas chambers fed by the deadly fumes of a large petrol engine taken from a tank. 

An estimated 200,000 people were killed in the camp. Some estimations put the figure at 250,000. 

This would place Sobibor as the fourth worst extermination camp – in terms of number of deaths – after Belzec, Treblinka and Auschwitz. 

Sobibor was named after its closest train station, at which Jews disembarked from extremely crowded carriages, unsure of their fate

Sobibor was named after its closest train station, at which Jews disembarked from extremely crowded carriages, unsure of their fate

The camp was located about 50 miles from the provincial Polish capital of Brest-on-the-Bug. Its official German name was SS-Sonderkommando Sobibor.

Prisoners launched a heroic escape on October 14 1943 in which 600 men, women and children succeeded in crossing the camp’s perimeter fence.

Of those, only 50 managed to evade capture. It is unclear how many crossed into allied territory.

Chelmno (also known as Kulmhof), in Nazi-occupied Poland

Chelmno was the first of Nazi Germany’s camps built specifically for extermination. 

It operated from December 1941 until April 1943 and then again from June 1944 until January 1945. 

Between 152,000 and 200,000 people, nearly all of whom were Jews, were killed there.  

Chelmno was the first of Nazi Germany's camps built specifically for extermination. It operated from December 1941 until April 1943 and then again from June 1944 until January 1945

Chelmno was the first of Nazi Germany’s camps built specifically for extermination. It operated from December 1941 until April 1943 and then again from June 1944 until January 1945

Majdanek (also known simply as Lublin), built on outskirts of city of Lublin in Nazi-occupied Poland

Majdanek was initially intended for forced labour but was converted into an extermination camp in 1942. 

It had seven gas chambers as well as wooden gallows where some victims were hanged.

In total, it is believed that as many as 130,000 people were killed there. 

Majdanek (pictured in 2005) was initially intended for forced labour but was converted into an extermination camp in 1942

Majdanek (pictured in 2005) was initially intended for forced labour but was converted into an extermination camp in 1942



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