Scrapbookpages Blog

October 5, 2010

Identifying photos of Elie Wiesel

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 9:59 am

This morning I asked a question in a comment on my post of September 13, 2010 which you can read here.  I asked how Elie Wiesel was identified in the photo taken at the Buchenwald concentration camp on April 27, 1945, which shows a column of boys walking out of the camp.  I did a little searching on the web and now I am able to answer the question myself.

On the web site of Kenneth Waltzer (which has since been deleted) I read this on the caption of the photo of the marching boys:

Elie Wiesel is fourth on the left, in front of the tall youth with beret.
Picture courtesy of the late Jack (Yakov) Werber, Great Neck, New York.

Young boys marching out of the Buchenwald camp

Young boys marching out of the Buchenwald camp

The photo above shows a group of orphan boys who survived the Buchenwald concentration camp.  I always thought that Elie Wiesel was the tall boy wearing a beret, but not according to Jack Werber.

I googled Jack Werber and found his obituary here.

This quote is from the obituary:

A photograph, now infamous, emerged after the war, Professor Helmreich pointed out. It shows three prisoners at Buchenwald. Two are hanging by ropes tied to their hands behind their backs, suspended from a tree. A third prisoner is on the ground. It is Mr. Werber, the professor said, “an officer standing over him with stick under his arm, looking down, a foot jutting into him.”

In 1996, with William Helmreich, director of the Center for Jewish Studies at Queens College, Mr. Werber wrote “Saving Children: Diary of a Buchenwald Survivor and Rescuer” (Transaction Books). In it, he wrote, “Suffering a great personal loss drove me in my obsession to save children.”

So Jack Werber is the man on the ground in this “infamous photo” shown below?

Photo taken inside Dachau Museum in 2001

I took the photo above in the Dachau Museum in 2001.  When I returned to the Museum in 2003, this photo was no longer there. For years, Holocaust deniers had called this photo a fake.  It was finally admitted that this photograph shows a scene that was created in 1958 for an East German DEFA film.

(Source: H. Obenaus, “Das Foto vom Baumhängen: Ein Bild geht um die Welt,” in Stiftung Topographie des Terrors Berlin (ed.), Gedenkstätten-Rundbrief no. 68, Berlin, October 1995, pp. 3-8)

So Jack Werber posed for a scene in a 1958 propaganda film? If the identification of Elie Wiesel in a photo at Buchenwald was found in the book by the late Jack Werber, I wouldn’t trust the identification since Werber obviously lied to Helmreich about the fake photo above.

10 Comments »

  1. […] Ms. Yeager wrote in her latest blog post that the web page, in which Ken Waltzer identified Elie Wiesel in a photo of the boys of Buchenwald marching out of the camp, has been taken down and replaced by another page.   I previously blogged about the web page that was taken down; you can read my blog post here. […]

    Pingback by New article by Carolyn Yeager accuses Professor Ken Waltzer of being a “fraud” | Scrapbookpages Blog — July 17, 2013 @ 9:53 am

  2. Hello, I am not very knowledgeable about the people you are discussing with regard to this photo. However, I am doing some research on it because I recently found an original of the shot (from a different direction) in the belongings of my late grandfather… who was there. He was an American soldier who was there for the liberation of Buchenwald, and was one of the only ones allowed to have a camera. Attached to his original photo, he saved a copy of an article from (I believe) Time Life Magazine, which showed the photo you have above. That’s how I knew what search terms to look for. Can someone please give me a bit more of the background? I honestly know very very little about this, but I’m quite curious. Thank you – Mariana

    Comment by Mariana Pickering — March 9, 2013 @ 3:03 am

    • Was your grandfather allowed to have a camera because he was in the Army Signal Corp? He may have been the soldier who took the shot that was shown in Life magazine and he also took another shot that was not in the magazine. However, some of the American soldiers had cameras that they had liberated from German soldiers who were encouraged to carry cameras.

      Comment by furtherglory — March 9, 2013 @ 7:58 am

      • I am not sure what the Army Signal Corp is, but I’m fairly certain it was his own camera – based on the number and location of other photos from the same film. I’ll look in his military records and try to figure it out, but we were always told that he was one of (if not the only) soldier allowed to have a camera that day.

        The way I always understood it was that the Americans had set up the shot, and something about a LIfe photographer being there as well… which was not him.

        I’m in the process of asking my aunts and uncles what they remember him saying about this photo, so maybe I’ll know more soon. I just thought it was interesting that everyone online is saying it was for an East German film… which doesn’t seem right.

        Comment by Mariana Pickering — March 9, 2013 @ 9:43 am

        • Quick update: based on my quick Googling on Signal Corps and my grandfather’s military records, I don’t think he was in that.

          Comment by Mariana Pickering — March 9, 2013 @ 9:46 am

        • He may have had a camera which he “liberated” from a dead German soldier, since German soldiers were allowed to carry cameras. Could you post the photo, so that we can determine if the photo was taken with a Leica or some other German camera, or whether it was taken with an American box camera? Few people in America, except for professional photographers, had an expensive camera in those days. How was the film developed? Did he bring the film home to be developed? Was it developed in a typical American professional lab, which can be seen by the way the photo was printed? Is the photo square or rectangular? What kind of border does it have?

          Comment by furtherglory — March 9, 2013 @ 11:26 am

          • Oops, I’d appreciate it if you delete that previous comment – accidentally posted it from another account… embarrassing. Can you delete that quickly please?

            Here is the link to the photos… from me:

            http://www.flickr.com/photos/marianapickering/sets/72157632987887731/

            Comment by Mariana Pickering — March 15, 2013 @ 4:10 am

            • I deleted the previous comment. I looked at the photos. They were probably taken with a 35 mm camera. The photos are excellent, although the quality of the camera is not so good. The person who took these photos was an experienced photographer who was a sensitive person with an eye for beauty. I saw the two photos of Buchenwald. One of the photos shows a tank just inside the gates of the camp. This means that it was probably taken just after the camp was liberated. The soldiers who are entering appear to be coming into the camp to see it AFTER it was liberated; they do not appear to be actively liberating the camp at that point. Very nice collection of photos. Thanks for sharing them.

              Comment by furtherglory — March 15, 2013 @ 6:40 am

  3. Do you think Jack Werber needed to “lie” to William Helmreich, director of the Center for Jewish Studies at Queens College?

    Did (Prof?) Helmreich care if Werber was telling the truth or not? It was known before 1996, when the Helmreich/Werber book was published, that this photo was a fake. If I’m wrong about that, someone please give me the details.

    It’s pretty obvious that Werber and Helmreich were cooking up another lying survivor story, complete with the sob-tale of Werber’s first wife, Rachel, and 3-year-old daughter, Emma, being killed by the Nazis. According to Werber’s obituary: “He heard this from an eyewitness who arrived at the camp,” Professor Helmreich said. “He felt he had nothing to live for.”

    Oh my. And what did this eyewitness actually see? We’re supposed to just take his word for it. This is the kind of “documentation” that we get from heads of Jewish Studies departments in our colleges and universities.

    Thanks, FG, for writing this and asking these questions in the search for truth. Such a rare commodity.

    Comment by Skeptic — October 5, 2010 @ 12:28 pm

    • Thanks for pointing out that the photo was known to be fake in 1995 before the book was written. This makes me wonder if “Baumhängen” actually took place at Buchenwald or at Dachau. The Dachau Museum left this photo up until 2003 when the whole Museum was redone, even though it was known in 1995 that the photo was fake.

      Comment by furtherglory — October 5, 2010 @ 1:14 pm


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