A bit of fun

Hello boys and girls.  See if you can work out where this picture was taken?

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36 Responses to A bit of fun

  1. NPOV says:

    Let me guesss…in front of a group of men and women in uniform, one holding an accordion?

  2. Liam says:

    From the picture? No chance. I note that two of the women #4 and #6 from the left are wearing some kind of insignia badge, and that they all are in uniform. I guess somewhere in Germany or near it, but not in France or Russia, and post-1943.

  3. James Farrell says:

    I’ve seen this somewhere recently. It’s near Auschwitz, isn’t it? Or Belsen.

  4. Jc says:

    I think I’ve seen it before. It was one of the big death camps. The monsters are having a little fun, hey? How sweet.

  5. Nabakov says:

    What’s really chilling about that photo is that the faces and poses are indistinguishable from pictures of many of our ancestors taken about the same time. I’ve seen almost identical compositions of my past extended family from that time taken aboard RN ships and on shore leave, and goofing around on Norfolk bomber bases.

    Yes of course the Nazis were evil and had to be stopped by all means necessary. But the appalling thing about the human race is that even at their most appalling, they still look so human.

  6. hc says:

    They are not monsters. Just normal people having a good time. That’s the scary bit. The photo made me think of Leonard Cohen’s poem about Adolf Eichmann.

    What do you expect?
    Oversize incisors?
    Green saliva?

  7. Nabakov says:

    We’re of similar mind here Harry. Hope it doesn’t become a mass movement.

  8. Jc says:

    I actually think the appalling thing is HOW that can look so normal. I can’t imagine how they could behave like that without the guilt of what they were doing. They say serial killers have no conscience, but they’re one in say 500,000 people. How do you end up with so many psychopaths in one picture?

  9. Jc,

    Nationalisation and socialisation of the identity is how. When you sell your soul to the devil, you are absolved of a guilty conscience. Individualism, which is the root of all morality, has no place amongst socialists, nationalist or otherwise. This is why the greatest crimes of all history have been commited by overbearing collectivist idealogies.

  10. Jc says:

    Yea, but brendan these creeps sent 100’s of 1,000s of people to their deaths. it wasn’t clinical in the sense that they were away from it and didn’t see it happening. These were the monsters that saw the bodies coming out of the chambers.

  11. Nabakov says:

    “Nationalisation and socialisation of the identity is how.”

    Indeed. In the space of only 12 years, the Nazis took one of the world’s most civilised and highly-educated cultures and plunged it into a complete moral cesspool, one of the world’s worst killing grounds and then a smoking ruin. And they did it through an utterly corrupted mixture of nationalism, fascism, socialism and corporatism.

    The lesson we should take away from this is never trust anyone advocating anything that ends in “ism”. However anything ending in “y” seems to be good so far.

  12. There are a surprisingly large number of WWII Nazi pics of that ilk floating around. This is just the latest set. Camp and Einsatzgruppen personnel became notorious for taking photographs of everything that moved (and a fair bit that didn’t, usually after they’d shot it). One of the most extraordinary sets of images (reproduced in this book, now available in English) was developed at a local chemist after being dropped off by an SS officer while he was on leave. One wonders what the staff thought as the images in question came floating up through the fixer.

    Harry and JC are right – the normality is key. This is the most confronting aspect of all these horrific exercises in groupthink (and they are many and varied, while being highly collectivist, as Brendan points out). Normal people get sucked into them.

  13. Nabakov says:

    And just to preempt some possible comments here.

    “However anything ending in y seems to be good so far.”

    Free tradey


  14. Nabakov says:

    “There are a surprisingly large number of WWII Nazi pics”

    High quality cameras and lenses (and good film stock) were German technologies they were very proud of at the time. And having such tech widely distributed was, along with autobahns and aerospace, a mark of national pride.

  15. That’s true, Nabs. There was an official ban on photographing massacres (more honoured in the breach than the observance), but people were busting keen to use their cameras. The most disturbing images are sets where pissups, picnics and so forth are mixed in with killings – all in the same series. Some of the images taken by non-German collaborators have a strong ‘look at moi’ element as well, and were clearly sent to (usually non-literate) family members in order to show how well son number two was doing.

  16. Nabakov says:

    “There was an official ban on photographing massacres (more honoured in the breach than the observance), but people were busting keen to use their cameras.”

    A bit like taking your new iPhone to the Lep Zep reunion gig at O2 and capturing and sending on highlights to your brother in the country.

    Well not really. But yes also. And that’s the true horror. It was a community/family event thing.

  17. TimT says:

    However anything ending in y seems to be good so far.

    Um, down with feminism, up with – being feministy?

  18. Yes – just normal people. Somehow I expected some of them to look a bit odd – a bit strained. But looks like they’d gotten used to their work by the time that picture was taken.

  19. Patrick says:

    pissups, picnics and so forth are mixed in with killings

    Actually I for one find it reassuring to think that they needed a stiffener or two to get them along with it.

    My wife’s name ends in ‘y’, phonetically at least :)

    Also I wonder to what extent things have changed so much that we can never more identify with such events. After all I understand that we, with our delicate mores and sense of compassion, are the exceptions. Even today I think ‘we’ remain a minority.

    It would be nice to think that we owe this change to the inutterable horror of the holocaust. But that is plainly false – such horrors have existed throughout history and continue to exist, if rarely on such a scale.

    For my part I think we have money to thank. Somehow the combination of democracy and capitalism (to demur from Nab’s statement of principle) appears to bring compassion.

  20. Actually I for one find it reassuring to think that they needed a stiffener or two to get them along with it.

    Alcohol can vitiate intent at common law. Like Patrick, I find it oddly reassuring that large numbers of these people needed to pickle themselves daily in order to keep doing this shit. The thought of people doing it stone cold sober is utterly terrifying.

    That said, the Nazi high command spread the booze around as part of a deliberate policy, especially in cultures where booze was strongly associated with ‘good times’ and where access had been controlled by communist authorities previously. A ‘fifth of vodka’ (as in the Eminem song) was the standard measure doled out to members of the Einsatzgruppen before a shooting. They were expected to scull it after collecting their ammunition.

  21. Patrick says:

    Although, apparently the UK and US chiefs-of-command were doing the same thing!

  22. WWII was a vortex that sucked our good impulses into a mess of moral butchery, there’s no doubt about that. While I’ve never thought it fair to engage in the sort of ‘immoral equivalence’ (the phrase is Deborah Lipstadt’s) that equates the death camps with Dresden or Hiroshima, no-one should pretend that you can do that sort of stuff and remain unaffected by it.

    I don’t necessarily mean individually – the guy who took the photos Nick’s highlighted above went back to being a bank johnny in his hometown and died in his bed at 88 (follow Laura’s link). It’s the collective impact on a country’s culture that never goes away. Dresden and Hiroshima problematized aerial bombardment for all time. I hope Auschwitz taught us a deeper lesson.

  23. Patrick says:

    While Ive never thought it fair to engage in the sort of immoral equivalence

    I should clarify that I did not mean to engage in any such ‘crap’ (the phrase is mine). I was referring to Churchill and Eisenhower’s alcohol habits (and eg Grant’s, etc throughout time).

    Dresden and Hiroshima problematized aerial bombardment for all time.

    Not perceptibly.

    I hope Auschwitz taught us a deeper lesson.

    My other point above was that I suspect it didn’t. I can find very little evidence that a) Auschwitz taught ‘us’ a lesson, or that b) extraordinarily horrific human suffering teaches ‘people’ a lesson. Otherwise, for example, surely the last few centuries up until WWII would not have been a crescendo of violence. And I see little sign that appalling suffering in, eg, Africa, encourages pacificism in Africans. The Soviets were ‘exposed’ to Auschwitz but not perceptibly affected by it (unless perhaps inspired).

    As I said above, the only reliable correlation I can with increased compassion/’humanity’/what have you is to broad wealth. Which only seems to happen in capitalist democracies.

    NB: from today’s ML, via Will Wilkinson:

    The brute fact of patriotism is made brute by the inveterate inclination in men to associate virility with the exertion involved in killing and risking death. No theory can ever defeat or discredit this inclination, which helps to engender the fantasy that the competition of political units is the highest kind of team sports.

  24. Well, yes, Churchill used to sit in Whitehall pickling himself with whiskey – and Grant was legendary… And I didn’t think you were immoral equivalencing at all; it’s just having been accused of it myself, I’m rather careful ;)

    I don’t know if you’re familiar with Prof R J Rummel’s work on democide, but he’s gone to some trouble to assess the link between wealth, democracy, capitalism and lack of genocidal killing empirically. Very interesting stuff.

  25. Niall says:

    Okay, so where was the photo taken? I suspect the era is Germany circa late 1944-45. The male officers are all SS, the one on the far left being a high ranking officer judging by his epaulettes and collar flashes. The women are some form of camp guard, I suspect. Each has an insignia on the left breast pocket.

  26. James Farrell says:

    Did you follow Laura’s link, Niall?

  27. Patrick says:

    While Ive never thought it fair to engage in the sort of immoral equivalence

    Take II on that line – I actually read through Laura’s link. What a swell example. I’m afraid, paceHeather Mellick, that nothing at My Lai or in Abu Ghraib causes me any sort of reaction compared to that evoked by the Holocaust. Indeed surely re-reading her own article should suffice to establish that.

  28. I had seen that photo somewhere before possibly a month or so back when prompted by reading Hitler’s Willing Executioners by Daniel Goldhagen I decided to read everything about Hess I could get my hands on. And there’s quite a bit on Hess.

    As far as I’m concerned we don’t learn very much by portraying the Nazis (or others)as inhuman monsters but we do gain a lot by understanding how basically normal people (Hess and other germans at the time) know without knowing and give tacit support to monstrous and inhuman actions.

  29. Laura says:

    FX – have you read ‘The Separation’ by Chris Priest?

  30. Shaun says:

    The banality of evil.

  31. No Laura. Recommended? I must say I got a bit sick of reading about the Nazis for a while.

  32. In #31 I somehow dropped out Albert Speer who was in my book the most interesting and whose own writing as well as others books about him (some sympathetic others not) provide the best insights into the mentality at the time.

  33. MarkL says:

    Disturbing. (National)Socialists having fun. Anyone seen similar pics of communist guards in the gulags, the STASI camp guards or Fidel’s camp guards today whooping it up?


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