The International School for Holocaust Studies
Reviewed by Dr. Gideon Greif
Serge Klarsfeld, Marcello Pezzetti, Sabine Zeitoun, and Simone Veil
Coédition Al Dante et Fondation pour la mémoire de la Shoah, 2005
It might seem to some that after the complete documented and scientific edition of this Album published two years ago by Yad Vashem in cooperation with the Auschwitz-Birkenau National Museum, a new publication would be superfluous, especially since the Album has also been published in several editions and in different languages. Indeed this edition, published at the initiative of Serge Klarsfeld, also does not provide any new insights into the fascinating subject of the album and yet it definitely should not be passed over.
It should be pointed out that Klarsfeld was instrumental to a large degree in bringing the Album to the attention of the general public. Due to his efforts in the 1970's, Lili Jacob gave the Album to Yad Vashem.
In addition, Klarsfeld was the first one who discovered the photographs in the Prague Jewish Museum and he published them in one modest volume in Paris in 1980. All subsequent editions were based on his initial effort. In this new edition, the reader will understand all the necessary elements for examining the photographs: historical background, explanations of the photographs and what hides behind them, details about Lili Jacob, and how she discovered the album.
This French edition certainly presents the reader with a good factual and historical frame of reference. Part of the information in this edition has previously appeared in the Yad Vashem / Auschwitz State Museum publication, such as the identification of some of the victims and perpetrators in the photographs. Another advantage of this edition is the printing of the pictures in their original size and in the same format of the album. The explanations of the photographs are, for the most part, well done.
Klarsfeld's edition does not reveal any new exciting discoveries, nor is the mystery surrounding the album solved. Outstanding questions remain, such as: who gave the order for the 207 photographs to be taken, for what reason, and who carried out the order? [We have partial and circumstantial answers in the names of Hoffmann and Walter.] It also remains unclear who wrote the inscription in poor German on the inside cover and whether the album was put to any use or simply laid aside.
The French-language edition augments any library devoted to Holocaust Studies. Klarsfeld's initiative in publishing this edition is to be commended.