And so in the fullness of time it came to pass that Elsa got her transport, thanks to the chatty young officer in charge of the deportations, and she got her pass to the Jewish quarter, and help with hauling the photographic equipment. It was the fruit of weeks upon weeks of maneuvering, and she even managed an orderly whom the officer gave her and told to take orders from her as from his military superior, and all was well.
She briefed the young man, on the way there, in the fine art of being an anthropological assistant, which is to say, invisibility. She’d told his officer to send him in civilian clothes, because while the imprimatur of the occupying authority was of great importance politically, it didn’t do to stir things up further with the subjects. There were large families, in their warrens, mothers and fathers and ten to twelve children—quite marvelous, and a soon to be passing thing, for this prolific stock was to be pruned back, and this phenomenon would be documented for the histories of the Government General as well as for its own intrinsic interest.
The young man was most helpful, and silent, as he carried the photographic equipment into an outbuilding and helped her to set up a primitive photographic studio, complete with a grey army blanket by way of backdrop, to which she affixed the dressmaker’s tape she carried by way of a reference rule, for use in later measurements on the photograph.
Absolutely chilling. I’ve seen banks of photos like these – width of nose, depth of forehead, fullness of lips, all catalogued to see whether you might live to contribute to the gene pool. A horrible period of history but I think it’s very important to write about it so it’s never forgotten. Grand six.
Intriguing scene. Great SSS!
Grand is a great word to describe this work. It’s huge, well done!
The sheer underlying horror is emphasised by Elsa’s genteel character. Very well done.
She must be a very strong and persausive character to be able to get everything she needs in this context.
Elsa’s work here falls in a broad context of generations of anthropological and anthropometric study. As Sue notes above, there’s quite a lot of politicking that gets the work done, especially when one’s boss is as uncooperative as Elsa’s is.
My reading about the mid-century German genocides revealed their deep background in “respectable” late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century social science. To put it flippantly, “Hitler was the lead guitarist; he wasn’t the band.” Incidentally, it is definitely genocides, plural, because as Ally and Heim point out, the European Jews represent a pilot project or feasibility study, and what was “accomplished” in the way of mass death represents 1% to 10% of what was projected. The million or so civilian deaths in the siege of Leningrad represent the results hoped for by the war on the Slavic world, which was to have extended beyond the Urals to the Pacific.
Selected sources for Elsa Einhorn-Auslander’s story in Reincarnations:
Absolutely chilling. I was an anthro major and I shuddered reading this, and how it was utilized then. I read your comment above and I had no idea about some of that (that the Holocaust was a pilot project). I’ve got chills….
Frightening in its very ordinariness.