Sunday, January 31, 2010

Photos from the German East

I recently acquired a German publication (Deutscher Osten 1939-1945
Der Weltanschauungskrieg in Photos und Texten
, edited by Klaus-Michael Mallmann, Volker Rieß, Wilhelm Pyta, 2003 Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt) that contains transcriptions of numerous documents (letters, reports, diary entries, deposition transcripts), mostly from the German side, related to the Nazi war of extermination in Eastern Europe. It also contains a number of interesting photographs related to that war.

The photographs, some of which will be shown hereafter, are noteworthy in that the editors undertook, in an appendix to their document collection (Abbildungsnachweis und –kommentar, pp. 199-204), to inform their readers where (usually in German archives) they had found each photo and what they had managed to establish regarding its provenance. The references and comments are worth reading for who is interested in where photos of Nazi atrocities come from, which is why, regarding the photos shown hereafter, I translated not only the caption but also the reference and comment in the aforementioned appendix.

Some of the photos below are rather graphic and not recommended for sensitive persons.

Caption: "Photo 16: Dünaburg (Daugavpils/Dvinsk): Jews with Latvian guards on the way to execution, July/August 1941."
Reference and comment:
16. BAL[= Bundesarchiv-Außenstelle Ludwigsburg, Federal Archives, External Office Ludwigsburg], 319 AR-Z 10/70, Supplement 1, Photo 2. The photo, together with 15 others, was left by Franz H. for reproduction to the police, which made a folder of the photos. H. furthermore left his diary notes (as before, Vol. 1, Folio 189, Supplement 2 and Chapter III.6 of this book). The caption is based on the caption in the folder, the diary notes and a deposition by H. on 17.10.1970 (as before, Vol. 1, Folios 178-188).

Caption: "Photo 18: Hanging in Staraya-Russa, early September 1941."
Reference and comment:
18. BAL, 319 AR-Z 10/70, Supplement 1, Photo 4. See Note 16. The machine-typed description of the photo folder made by the LKA [= Landeskriminalamt, Federal State Office of Criminal Investigation] Nordrhein-Westfalen, mentions Jewish victims; H.’s diary notes do not support this.

Caption: "Photo 20: Dead Polish Jews, spring of 1942."
Reference and comment:
20. StAL[= Staatsarchiv Ludwigsburg, Ludwigsburg State Archive], EL 48/2 I, Bü 1353. The photo, together with 5 others, was sent by Ferdinand Welz (1907-1945) to his parents per letter from the field dd. 9.5.1942 (as before; cf. BAL, 10 AR 1494/62), from which an excerpt is printed.

[Excerpt on page 31, my translation]
Letter by Ferdinand Welz, member of a an air force anti-air barrage battery, to his parents dd. 9.5.1942 (excerpt)

"I enclose for you some pictures, which I hope will not make you sick. Yes, those are Jews. For them the dream of Germany's destruction is over. If you can look at it, take a closer look at these pictures, there is much to discover in them. But don't show them around everywhere and keep them well for me, for I no longer have the films. On this pictures you can see, though, that there is much to be seen around here when one has the opportunity."

Caption: "Photo 36: 'Collective reprisal action' in Rozanka, 28 June 1941."
Reference and comment:
36. BAL 202 AR-Z 40/70, Vol. 1, Folio 19; cf. the depositions of three members of 1st Company of Medical Section of 5th Infantry Division, who reached Rozanka immediately after the shooting (as before, Folios 2, 6, 37f.).

Caption: "Photo 43: Ghetto Riga."
Reference and comment:
43. Public Prosecutor’s Office Hamburg, Photo Folder 141 Js 534/60 against Maywald et al (Riga-Complex), LO[= Leitz Dossier] 1, Part A, Photo 66. Contrary to the writing on the back of the LO a continuous folio ordering is missing. This is a collection last changed in 1984 of photos which were, sometimes without exact reference, removed from the main files. The photos in Part A are preceded by the deposition dd. 16.5.1975 of Efraim J., a Jew living in Riga until the end of the war, who identified Photo 66 as showing "the Riga Ghetto with Jewish ghetto inhabitants".

Caption: "Photos 44-45: Mass grave in the Bikernieki Forest near Riga."
Reference and comment:
44. As before, Part C., Folio 37. Further information is missing at this place; cf. Note 43.

Caption: "Photo 45"
Reference and comment:
45. As before, Folio 38. Already published by Bernd Schmalhausen: Dr. Rolf Bischofswerder, Leben und Sterben eines jüdischen Arztes aus Dortmund, Bottrop-Essen, 1998, page 81, with the caption "Mass grave with murdered Jews in the Bikerniki Forest".

Caption: "Photo 46: Gomel: Soviet prisoners of war in a mass grave, winter 1941/42."
Reference and comment:
46. BAL, Documentation Section, photo folder from the LKA Baden-Württemberg (without further designation), no folio ordering, as well as 10 AR 783/62 (with originals). Cf. StAL, EL 48/2, Bü 64. The photos, 15 in total, were found by chance during a search action. They are from the widow of a member of Landesschützenbataillon 432, which guarded the Dulag [= Durchgangslager, transit camp for POWs] 121 in Gomel from 10.11.1941 to the summer of 1944 (cf. BAL, 319 AR-Z 86/70, Vol. 2, Folio 38). The photo in all probability shows a scene from the huge mass dying of the prisoners of war.

Caption: "Photo 47: Removing a dead prisoner of war, winter 1941/42."
Reference and comment:
47. As before.

Caption: "Photo 64: Mass execution in the area of Task Force 8."
Reference and comment:
64. BAL, 202 AR-Z 81/59 b, Vol. 2, Folio 495, letter from the Dortmund Central Office to ZStL [= Central Office of the Federal States' Judicial Administrations in Ludwigsburg] dd. 2.1.1964 with affixed envelope. According to this letter, the photo was submitted by Werner Schönemann, Partial Task Force Commander of EK [= Einsatzkommando, Task Force] 8.

Caption: "Photo 71: SS Cavalry Regiment 2: Jews shot near Pinsk, early August 1941."
Reference and comment:
71. Personal property of Werner Müller (Cologne). Cf. Erich Mirek: Enthüllung faschistischer Grausamkeiten, in: In den Wäldern Belorußlands. Erinnerungen sowjetischer Partisanen und deutscher Antifaschisten, Berlin (GDR) 1984, pp. 175-179.

Caption: "Photo 81: Durchgangslager 150: the papers of newly arrived prisoners are burned."
Reference and comment:
81. BAL, 319 AR-Z 10/70, Supplement 1, Photo 15; cf. Note 16 for further details.

Caption: "Photo 82: Dead prisoners of war of Durchgangslager 150 in Dubovitsi, November 1941."
Reference and comment:
82. As before, Photo 16; cf. Note 16 for further details.

Photos of German atrocities were often taken by German servicemen as private souvenirs. German soldiers on the Eastern Front sometimes also made amateur films, some of which are shown in the permanent exhibition of the Deutsch-Russisches Museum in Berlin-Karlshorst. Mostly the films show the struggle against Russian mud and winter, smiling buddies and innocuous scenes from a soldier's daily life, but they also contain the images visible on the following stills from my videocamera recordings made in the museum in February 2009:

The poster in the middle still reads "Diese Juden haben gegen die deutsche Wehrmacht gehetzt", which translates as "These Jews agitated against the German Wehrmacht".

The following sequence of film stills, also recorded at the museum in Berlin-Karlshorst, is not necessarily related to an atrocity committed by German forces. However, these images of Russian, Belorussian or Ukrainian women dragging a corpse through the mud are a vivid illustration of the appalling conditions under which the Soviet civilian population lived and died in the territories occupied by Nazi Germany.

1 comment:

  1. What can be said. The town of my paternal grandfather’s family - Kamenetz Podolsk, a center of Jewish learning and culture, was also one of the first cities on the eastern b


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