Even the numbers are monstrous. Within a few months' span in 1944, more than 400,000 innocent people were delivered to the Auschwitz death camp. The arrival rate each day was approximately 8,000 victims, who were exterminated with chilling efficiency by the Nazis and their collaborators.
But the unfathomable numbers of the Holocaust are supplemented by something new in "Nazi Scrapbooks from Hell" " a disturbing vision of the killers not as a collective monstrosity, but as ordinary people off the job, unwinding after their workday.
This National Geographic Channel documentary examines photographs from a scrapbook presented to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum little more than a year ago by an anonymous donor. The album was compiled by Karl Hocker, an SS officer at the Auschwitz complex who served as the assistant to the commandant. Hocker snapped more than 100 pictures of himself and colleagues enjoying themselves at cocktail parties, sing-alongs and other afterwork activities.
The photos don't argue against the killers' capacity for evil. But Hocker's album exposes them as humans, and they emerge all the more evil for it. Meanwhile, they are all the more disturbing for how, in some respects, they seem to resemble the rest of us.
This engrossing documentary also helps shed light on the shadowy Hocker, who in war trial testimony (excerpts of which are heard during the program) would deny playing any role in the executions. His own innocent-seeming photographs are subjected to computer analysis for the documentary, and help support a case that concludes otherwise.
"Nazi Scrapbooks from Hell" premieres 9 p.m. EDT Sunday.
Other shows to look out for:
- Presto! Seven wannabe celebrity magicians will suddenly turn into just six, on the premiere of VH1's "Celebracadabra." Starring genuine magician Rocco Silano, this new reality series gathers the contenders at Hollywood's Magic Castle, where they'll attempt to learn and perform tricks as they vie for the title of Best Celebrity Magician. In each episode the celebs will be instructed in a different style of magic, from sleight of hand to large-scale illusions. And the loser of each challenge will have to disappear. Competitors include comedian Hal Sparks, singer Carnie Wilson, rapper Chris "Kid" Reid and Pussycat Doll Kimberly Wyatt. The series premieres Sunday at noon and 9 p.m.
- What will happen when 10 attractive city gals head to the heartland to compete for the heart of a sexy farmer? That's the premise of "Farmer Wants a Wife," which finds 29-year-old, down-home hunk Matt growing corn, wheat and soybeans on his spread in Missouri " but also growing a little lonely. Who among the ladies will best adapt to tending farm animals, sewing quilts and taking part in bingo night " and thus win Matt's affections? It all sounds remarkably like "Girl Meets Cowboy," which, airing last fall on WE, was set in Montana. But this show is located 1,200 miles southeast, and located on the CW network, where it premieres 9 p.m. Wednesday.
- Nicktoons Network is launching "Speed Racer: The Next Generation" with a 90-minute opener 7 p.m. Friday. Based on the classic kids' show that debuted 30 years ago, this new series follows Speed Racer's son, Speed, after he arrives at the Racing Academy. With his new friends Lucy, Conor and Conor's robot monkey, Speed must learn to balance studying and racing, while avoiding the evil schemes of oil tycoon Zile Zazic and his racer daughter Annalise. Meanwhile, Speed and his pals try to solve the mystery of his father's disappearance. And he discovers his father's schematics for a revolutionary gasless engine, which will power the car he builds, the Mach 6 " the ultimate racing machine.
- An exquisite painting links bygone moments in the life of Penelope Keeling, the 64-year-old daughter of a famous artist, in "The Shell Seekers," a made-for-TV film starring Vanessa Redgrave that premieres 9 p.m. Saturday on the Hallmark Channel. Based on Rosamunde Pilcher's best-selling novel, this is a portrait of a woman who has traveled from her childhood in London through an unhappy marriage and an all-too-brief romance, to her fractious relationship with her children, now grown. How will her late father's painting affect Penelope's efforts to bring her shattered family back together? The film " also featuring Maximilian Schell, Charles Edwards and Alastair MacKenzie " is a remake of a "Hallmark Hall of Fame" production starring Angela Lansbury that was aired by ABC in 1989.