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Luca Crippa
Maurizio Onnis

  • Publication date: October 2013
  • Publisher: EDIZIONI PIEMME
  • Country: IT
  • 280 print pages
  • Biopics


  • Epoch: Historical
  • Time Period: 20th century, World War II
  • Location setting: Poland
  • Themes: PEOPLE facing life, Resilience, PEOPLE facing the extraordinary, Survival, SOCIETY DYSFUNCTIONS, Power, War and other conflicts, SOCIAL CHRONICLES, Commitment


An account of the official Auschwitz photographer, Wilhelm Brasse, and his shift from detached observer to fully involved participant.


Translation rights sold: World English, China, Netherlands, Germany, Czech republic, Japan, Slovenia, Portugal

The book will be published in English by Bantam Press in March 2021.

Wilhelm Brasse's life and work were the subject of the 2005 Polish television documentary film The Portraitist (Portrecista).

Luca Crippa has worked as research professor and editorial consultant, author of history textbooks and essays, historical novels and documentaries.

Maurizio Onnis has studied anthropology and history of religions and cultures, has written historical novels and screenplays.


In 1939, after the Germans invaded Poland, the SS asked young Austrian-Polish Wilhelm Brasse to swear allegiance to Hitler and join the Wehrmacht. Wilhelm refused: he was Polish and didn’t want to betray his fatherland. He was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau as prisoner number 3444. Trained before the beginning of World War II as a portrait photographer, he was ordered by the SS camp administrators to photograph prisoners at work. His companions were soon sent to death; his life would be saved because he was a skilled photographer. From 1940 to 1945 he lived in the concentration camp where portrayed thousands of prisoners for the files, took shots of the executions and the criminal medical experiments of doctor Josef Mengele. Brasse realised that he couldn’t just survive and in the years he spent in Auschwitz he risked his life in order to give Polish resistance movement a part of his photos. Then at the beginning of 1945, when Soviet troops were about to liberate the camp, he was ordered to destroy all his documents; he pretended to do so whilst managing to save thousands of photographs and negatives. Between forty and fifty thousand photos were salvaged.

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