And still no evidence of Nazi gas chambers

Richard Ehrlich photographs an archive of Holocaust cruelty

The vast repository recording Nazi atrocities becomes part of a haunting account by the L.A. photographer.

FOURTEEN months ago, Richard Ehrlich left his office at the UCLA Medical Center, flew to Berlin and rented the best digital camera available. With the 39-megapixel Hasselblad safely stowed, he drove about 250 miles to the small town of Bad Arolsen and found his way to the International Tracing Service.

Ehrlich, a veteran urological surgeon with a second career in photography, had pulled plenty of strings to take pictures in the sprawling, six-building complex. But what he found was beyond comprehension: 50 million documents of Nazi atrocities in the world’s largest Holocaust archive.

The vast repository would become the subject of hundreds of photographs, shot over seven intensely focused days and winnowed to a 54-image portfolio. He started in June 2007 and returned in September, taking long views of the storage system and close-ups of individual items, including Oskar Schindler’s list of people who escaped death by working in his factory, a pile of snapshots confiscated from prisoners, badges that Jews were forced to wear, the order that sent Anne Frank to Bergen Belsen, where she died in 1945.

If the records and artifacts were placed side by side, Ehrlich says, they would form a 16-mile path into the minds and practices of Adolf Hitler’s followers, who attempted to eradicate Jews and others deemed defective or undesirable. The materials — divided into sections on incarceration, forced labor and migration — are stored on shelves and in cabinets, arranged in neat rows in a former military facility.


By Suzanne Muchnic, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
August 24, 2008