Nazi album bound with prisoner’s skin does not belong in a museum

Researchers at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum and Memorial have found a photo album that was bound with human skin.

It was first discovered at an antique shop in Poland by a collector when he noticed a tattoo on the surface, a bad smell, and hair jutting out from the album.

The gruesome discovery likely came from the Buchenwald camp located in Germany. The death camp was open from 1937-1945.

Buchenwald prisoners standing during a roll call. 

It was built with electrified fence surrounding the camp and guard watchtowers. Buchenwald would become the place of murder for more than 56,000 inmates. This number does not include the 12,000 inmates that were sent to Auschwitz who likely suffered a similar fate.

Buchenwald concentration camp

Ilse Koch, wife of the commandant of the Buchenwald concentration camp, commissioned lampshades, books, table covers and other objects to be furnished out of the prisoners’ skin. The Auschwitz Museum believes the recently discovered album was commissioned by Koch, who was known as the “Bitch of Buchenwald” for her sadistic torture of prisoners using a whip, along with other horrific means.

“Bitch of Buchenwald”

“According to accounts by Buchenwald survivors, human skin was treated as material for the production of everyday objects, including book bindings and wallets,” the Daily Mail reports.

Dozens of skin-objects were found after the war. As the Auschwitz Museum indicated, these objects were evidence of the crimes against humanity that took place during World War II.

The moral question that emerges is: what do we do with the objects that were created with human beings as material.

Photo album made of human skin

Option one, which is the likely outcome of the hairy photo album, that it will be preserved behind glass in a museum in order to educate the next generation about the horror of what happened during World War II. This is especially important given that the number of living Holocaust survivors continues to decline. Holocaust deniers will likely sieze on the opportunity once they are all deceased to further make their despicable claims that the Holocaust was a fiction. Therefore, it would seem that preserving the skin-album in a museum would be a fair way to disprove their war on truth.

Another perspective on the matter is more sensitive to Jewish traditions. As the victim was likely Jewish, it would only be respectful to bury the photo album under a memorial. Jewish law requires the dead be buried, else tradition holds that the soul cannot come to a full rest. Thus, in the attempt to preserve the memory of the 6,000,000 who suffered the horrors perpetrated by the Germans, well-meaning researchers and collectors may be continuing the war crime against the Jews.

When it comes to keeping mummies preserved, the controversy is not as extreme as here. The pharaoh or noble had always intended to be preserved so that he or she could enjoy a nice afterlife.

But in this case, I would imagine the victim would want to be laid to rest peacefully. Having been murdered and then disrespected in such a horrific way by Koch, it is only just for the victim to be allowed to sleep.

A photograph of the album behind glass will suffice. And if it doesn’t, if the Holocaust deniers accuse the Museum for embellishing or inventing the horrors, then so be it. That is an outcome we should be willing to accept.

Let us not make a spectacle out of the victims. After all, did we preserve all the bodies that were found in the concentration camps — or did we bury them? Surely, if we would have kept all those bodies behind a glass it would have had a stronger impact on showing the world the horror. But the lies of the Holocaust deniers must not dictate how we treat the remains of the dead. After all the pain and terror the poor souls endured during their lifetimes, they have earned their right to rest. Let them sleep. Let us not allow our desire to preserve the memory of the horror, continue the horror.

Liberation of Buchenwald