Skip to content

Exhibition closed

We're open Monday – Thursday 10am – 4pm & Sundays 11am – 3.30pm

< See all events

The prewar Nazi camps and their images


22 Mar 2023, 5:30pm


Holocaust Centre North


Free - donations welcome

Book a ticket

Not photographs by the victims, but by the perpetrators shape the visual imagination of the Nazi concentration camps. Photos that camp inmates were able to take secretly are rare exceptions. The bulk of images come from the hands of the SS camp guards. And yet, to this day, SS photographs determine the view on the victims without deconstructing the perspectives and staging of the SS.

Nevertheless, the motifs and visual language of the photos produced in the 1930s sometimes differ greatly from the photos taken in the 1940s. The early networks of the SS before Auschwitz, the beginning of the Nazi camp system, training, and leisure time, but also camp inmates, with whom the SS posed for photos, become visible. At the centre of the lecture, which is based on the analysis of several thousand photos from the 1930s, are the visual stagings and narratives of the prewar period as well as their special characteristics.

Dr Stefan Hördler demonstrates that the early concentration camp system derived as much from practices at the Lichtenburg camp in Prussia or the Sachsenburg camp in Saxony as from practice at the better-studied Dachau camp in Bavaria. He addresses the careers of hundreds of SS camp men, the management of the prewar camps, and other subjects. The discussion illuminates the early evolution of the Nazi camp system in the 1930s.

Dr Stefan Hördler is Lecturer at the University of Göttingen and Visiting Professor at the University of Huddersfield. Previously he worked at universities and research institutes in Germany, Austria, and the United States. Hördler is the author and co-editor of numerous international publications and prize-winning books. In one of his most recent publications, he explores together with Tal Bruttmann and Christoph Kreutzmüller Lili Jacob’s Auschwitz album. Hördler is member of several international academic advisory boards. For the past decade, he serves as expert consultant in various international investigations against former Nazi camp personnel. His current project examines the industrial transformation and deindustrialization since the 1970s.