Thursday, November 1, 2012

Wilhelm Brasse

Last week Wilhelm Brasse passed away, on 23 October. Brasse was a Polish professional photographer and a prisoner in Auschwitz during World War II. 
Brasse was of mixed Austrian-Polish descent. He learned photography in Katowice at the atelier of his aunt. After the 1939 German invasion of Poland and occupation of Brasse's hometown Żywiec, in southern Poland, he was interrogated by the SS. He refused to swear allegiance to Hitler, and was imprisoned for three months. After his release, still refusing to capitulate to the Volksliste and forced membership of German Army, he tried to escape to Hungary and join the Polish Army in France but was captured, along with other young men, at the Polish–Hungarian border and deported to KL Auschwitz-Birkenau as prisoner number 3444.
Brasse was ordered by the SS camp administrators to photograph prisoners work, criminal medical experiments, [and] portraits of the prisoners for the files. Brasse has estimated that he took 40,000 to 50,000 "identity pictures" from 1940 until 1945.
Wilhelm Brasse (L) with writer Erich Hackl at his house in Żywiec
Although he had gone back to the State Museum at Auschwitz-Birkenau to talk with visitors about his experiences, and although he still possessed a pre-war Kodak camera, he would never take another photograph.
Thanks, Alex

1 comment:

  1. Daan, thanks for this story. What a brave and honorable man! Such tragedy. We must never forget.