Monday, April 28, 2008

The Auschwitz scrapbook - commentary

I received a number of calls and e-mails about the Auschwitz scrapbook show that aired on the National Geographic Channel last night. There were some specific concerns that I wanted to address.

First, I just wanted to say that I enjoyed the show and think that all involved did a great job of telling a difficult story. There are so many strong feelings about this subject, and I have my own, that this show stirred up a wild debate. With that in mind, I'll try to answer most of the questions and concerns (grouping the similar together to keep things brief).

Question: why didn't you measure all of the soldiers in the pictures?

Answer: we did. We were very concerned about looking like were were focussing too much on this particular subject, so we looked at the others as well. Unfortunately, that part of the tape did not make it past the edits and into the show. It isn't a show about the forensics or a who-done-it. It is a show about Karl Hoecker's photo album.

Question: the testimony centers around some officer named Hoecker. Were there any others there with that same last name?

Answer: yes. I received known photographs of another Hoecker stationed at the camp during that time. He was of a different rank and station and thus had many noticeable differences to his uniform tunic.

The comment that I made, "the extra step and the extra step and the extra step ..." was meant to illustrate the depth that the folks at Creative Differences went to to try to prove the point and cover all the bases. Not just how many men were 1.75m, but how many 1.75m men had similar measurements across the beam, down the arm, and so forth.

I also made the comment that was not included in the broadcast that while both the famous Boston Celtic, Kevin McHale and I share about the same height and we have about the same colouring ... we are drastically different in proportion. I have relatively short legs for someone of my height while his arms are seem so long as to be out of proportion. Taken individually, these things may mean little. But add up all of these little pieces and you can begin to rule people out. Who are you left with ... ? It's for the jury to decide.

On the whole, I enjoyed working with their team. I was fascinated by the prospect of matching Photoshop and image analysis with Maya. Their math checked out. Their process was repeatable and well explained. I think it speaks well for future exploration of this type of work ... Photoshop and Maya.

I want to stress again that it's not a show about the technology or a forensic analysis of these images. It's a show about Karl Hoecker's photo album. The album adds a new chapter in what's known about the time and what happened at Auschwitz. The technology, however, was an interesting side-line.

If you missed it or want to see it again, it's on again on May 4th at 11am. 

Thanks again for your e-mails and calls. And thanks again for your support.

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