The original purpose for the photographs has never been determined. They may have been taken by either Ernst Hofmann or Bernhard Walter, two SS men responsible for fingerprinting and taking photo IDs of those prisoners who were not selected for extermination.
The album has 56 pages and 193 photographs. Originally, it had more photos, but before being donated to the Holocaust Museum in Israel, Yad Vashem, some of them were given to survivors who recognized relatives and friends.
The images follow the processing of newly arrived Hungarian Jews in the early summer of 1944. They document the disembarkation of the Jewish prisoners from the train boxcars, followed by the selection process, performed by doctors of the SS and wardens of the camp, which separated those who were considered fit for work from those who were to be sent to the gas chambers. The photographer followed groups of those selected for work, and those selected for death to a birch tree grove just outside of the crematoria where they were made to wait before being killed.
The photographer also documented the workings of an area called Canada, where the looted belongings of the prisoners were sorted before transport to Germany.
The album's survival is remarkable, given the strenuous efforts made by the Nazis to keep the Final Solution a secret. Also remarkable is the story of its discovery. Lilly Jacob (later Lilly Jacob-Zelmanovic Meier) was selected for work at Auschwitz-Birkenau while the other members of her family were sent to the gas chambers. The Auschwitz camp was evacuated by the Nazis as the Soviet army approached. Jacob was passed through various camps, finally arriving at the Dora concentration camp, where she was eventually liberated. Recovering from illness in a vacated barracks of the SS, Jacob found the album in a cupboard beside her bed. Inside, she found pictures of herself, her relatives and others from her community. The coincidence was astounding, given that the Nordhausen-Dora camp was over 640 km (400 miles) away, and that over 1,600,000 people were killed at Auschwitz.