SEMLIN CONCENTRATION CAMP PHOTOGRAPH ALBUM
A stunning collection of over 250 original 2.5 x 3.75 in. photographs taken by a German nurse 'helferin', or assistant, most likely in the earliest days following the establishment of the infamous Semlin (Samjiste) concentration camp near Belgrade. The camp was organized and operated by SS Einsatzgruppen units stationed in occupied Serbia, and became operational in September 1941. At the end of 1941 and the beginning of 1942, thousands of Jewish women, children and old men were brought to the camp, along with 500 Jewish men and 292 Romani women and children. The photographs are loosely mounted in a 13 x 9.25 cloth-covered album, above (untranslated) captions in German. Almost all of the images are from the camp, and many show inmates, buildings, camp personnel, etc. The album was apparently started early on, as the first photos show massive numbers of tens, some with prisoners milling about. Hitler Jungvolk are shown parading, along with the nurse/aides, all interspersed with images of the construction of barracks, watch towers, etc. Prisoners soon arrive, some well dressed and in local garb, others in rags and obviously in need of care. Throughout the album, these nurses are shown enjoying a relatively carefree life at play, making music, meeting SS staff members, dining, etc. while spread throughout are heart-rending photographs of prisoners seated in the dirt beside their tents, undertaking forced labor in construction, lining up for food, and so on. Further on, we see new prisoners arriving in large numbers with one suitcase each, a band playing for the inmates, and these helpers sorting the suitcases of those arriving by train. Ominously, one photo shows what appears to be a covered body being removed from a van, very possibly one of the gassing vans used to kill Jews at the camp. Other images show the arrival of dignitaries, SS and army officers, inspection of the women by their superiors, etc. Overall fine condition. Estimates of the number of deaths at Sajmiste range from 20,000 to 23,000, with the number of Jewish deaths estimated at 7,000 to 10,000. It is thought that half of all Serbian Jews perished at the camp. Most of the Germans responsible for the operation of the camp were captured and brought to trial. Several were extradited to Yugoslavia and executed. Camp commander Herbert Andorfer and his deputy were arrested in the 1960s after many years of hiding. Both were given short prison sentences. A remarkably rare record of the creation of a notorious concentration camp, by a willing participant in its murders.