In today’s New York Times, there’s an article about a collection of photographs from a Nazi concentration camp. What makes these pictures unusual is that they’re of the camp’s SS officers relaxing in various ways which seemingly ignore the atrocities of which they’re a significant part. The contrast is chilling and alludes directly to what Hannah Arendt described as the “banality of evil.” The US Holocaust Memorial Museum has an online exhibit dedicated to the images here.
I bring this up on this blog because I wanted to share these striking images, but also because the first name mentioned in the story is a former star student from MW, Rebecca Erbelding, a History and American Studies double major who did her senior thesis with me several years ago. [It was a fascinating exploration of the role that an American, Varian Fry, played in getting people out of Nazi Germany.] She interned with the Holocaust Museum, which turned into a full-time job there. She’s now an archivist at that incredible institution. I suppose one of the positive counters to getting older is that you have more chances to see your students succeed. That’s pretty cool indeed.
Rebecca narrates a slideshow of the images here.
UPDATE: She can also be heard on NPR’s Talk of the Nation here.