The Nuremberg trials mark one of the darkest periods of world history. An international council was assembled to bring justice to dozens of Nazi war criminals who were accused of some of the most heinous war crimes ever committed.
One of the guards during the trials, Andrew Walter Polakovsky, found pictures of some of the atrocities committed by the Nazis and assembled a scrapbook of those events. That guard happened to be the grandfather of Southmoreland junior Erin Polakovsky, who now has ownership of that scrapbook.
Some of the pictures were identical to those used as evidence in the Nuremberg Trials, according to Polakovsky.
“They show the way that they tortured anyone who didn’t comply with Hitler’s master race idea, like homosexuals and the disabled,” Polakovsky said. “There’s a picture of Mussolini, Italy’s fascist dictator, hanging. Then there is also general wartime photos and pictures of the Alps and German architecture.”
If the scrapbook was donated to a museum, it would sit in a case and not be touched, but Polakovsky said her family wants people to be able “to see the pictures and learn” from them.
“We want to teach people and not give it to society where it could be torn apart or just put in a display case,” Polakovsky said. “It’s an important piece of history and should be seen by people.”
Andrew Polakovsky guarded Hermann Göring, Hitler’s so-called right hand man. This allowed him to be able to take the pictures that were used for evidence, some of which were discarded in the trash, when he walked by and saw them.
“My grandfather took the pictures from the trash,” Polakovsky said. “Something prompted him to take them and bring them home. I don’t know if it’s just because he was a hoarder or was like ‘Hey, it’s history.’”
Polakovsky knew from the time she was 8 years old that the scrapbook existed; however, she did not know what the scrapbook actually contained until she was about 14.
“We were talking about the Holocaust in school, and I mentioned that to my parents,” Polakovsky said. “They were like, ‘Oh yeah? Well you know we have this book with pictures of the concentration camps in it.’”
There were many pictures of the horrible acts committed by the Nazis in the scrapbook. However, Polakovsky pointed out one picture, in particular, that she said made her feel “disturbed.” It was a picture of two children standing in front of a soldier.
“I think it’s upsetting that it was normal for the children to see armed soldiers at this time,” Polakovsky said.
There are many musical pieces created that try to bring justice to the victims of the Holocaust, and the Southmoreland Concert Band plans to perform one. Polakovsky decided to bring in the scrapbook to show the band exactly how awful society was back then.
“In concert band, we are doing this piece by Daniel Bukvich called ‘In Memoriam Dresden,’” Polakovsky said, “The piece is about a pretty well known bombing that happened in 1946 during World War II. It is a very emotional piece, and in order for us to be able to feel the piece and do it justice, Mrs. Gore talked to us about it. I asked her if she’d like me to bring in my book to show the band the pictures and she said yes, so I brought it in to show them.”
The band will perform this piece in the spring.
This scrapbook was a very important piece of evidence during one of the darkest times in our history, so it is very important to Polakovsky.
“To me, it’s more a part of history than anything,” Polakovsky said.