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Thread: WW2 through the lens of a soldiers camera.

  1. #1
    Moderator Peter U's Avatar
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    Default WW2 through the lens of a soldiers camera.

    Hello,

    Most German pictures about WW 2 we come across on the World Wide Web and in books are those that are made by PK units (Propaganda Kompanie), the official German war photographers; although they are of high quality, they just show us what the Nazi government wanted us to see: a war in which the Teutonic heroes fight to safe the world from communism and Jewish controlled capitalism.
    The PK war photographers were professionals and they knew how to make pictures that make the German soldier look good, also their pictures needed to be checked by a censor.
    So if we today look at illustrations in books and on websites we are basically still looking at images that the Nazis wanted us to see.
    But there is an alternative, a good alternative actually, in WW2 one out of every three German soldiers had a photo camera and they took lots of pictures, certainly in the early campaigns when their was no shortage of film; the pictures they took were amateur pictures and they didn’t have to go through the censors office so they show an uncensored side of WW2.
    Some of these soldiers took their camera with them to the frontline and made pictures the best official war photographer couldn’t make, they show us another view on the life of a German soldier on the front: faces of soldiers that are scared, their friends that are KIA, the holocaust…etc.
    So I thought it was a good idea to start a thread dedicated to these private made photos during WW2.
    I’ll start it of with some pictures I have in my collection, please feel free to add yours, allied pictures are of course welcome to, but please try to avoid official war photographer pictures.

    Cheers,
    Peter
    Last edited by Peter U; 02-26-2011 at 06:55 AM. Reason: spelling mistake

  2. #2
    Moderator Peter U's Avatar
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    The first two pictures in this thread are from the Westfeldzug photoalbum of Eduard Hermann, he was an officer in Panzerjäger Abteilung 670, a unit equiped with Marders type I; in May 1940 they were an independent unit that belonged to the I Armee Korps, they fought in Belgium & Northern France in the sector of the 6th Army.
    Eduard Hermann will not survive the war he was KIA on July 7 1943 in Belgorod.

    According to the text in the photoalbum the first picture was taken just after a French armoured counter attack.
    - Despite the presence of a church tower in the picture, I alas haven't been able to find the exact location where this picture was taken.
    In the forefront you can see a Pzkw I, so the picture was taken when they operated together with a Panzer Regiment (most likely of the 3th or 4th Pz Div).
    In the Marder infront of the Pzkw I, one of the crewmembers was hit; they are giving him first aid, his pants is already taken off and one of his crew mates is holding his hand and more soldiers rush forward to give assistance.

    On the second picture we see Hauptmann Franz, the company commander, according to the text in the photoalbum he was also wounded in the same engagement.
    You can see the fear in his eyes; this type of picture, of a scared German officer you'll seldom or never find in the albums of offical PK photographers.
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  3. #3
    Moderator Peter U's Avatar
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    At first glance it isn’t a spectacular snapshot and perhaps it also isn’t very interesting for American arms collectors but for someone that is interested in the May ’40 campaign it is a super picture and that is why I decide to share it and its background story with all of you.

    First I’ll start with some background information.
    On May 27 1940 at 14h30 the Belgian general staff holds a meeting; during this meeting the generals come to the conclusion that the situation is hopeless, the Belgian army is surrounded in a small pocket that is full with refugees, in many units there is a huge shortage of ammunition and recently the frontline has been broken again. Every hour more German units move in to the small sector, no less then sixteen German Divisions are facing what is left of the Belgian army.
    The generals inform the king and its political advisors of their conclusion, on the basis of this report king Leopold III makes the final decision, the Belgian army will capitulate, the allied cause is lost (the BEF is in full retreat) and it is unnecessary to sacrifice more Belgian soldiers and civilians for it.
    The allied HQ’s in Paris and London are informed of this decision and a negotiator will be sent to the Germans to ask for terms to surrender.
    The negotiator will be general Derousseaux, captain Liagre will be the interpreter.
    At five o’clock in the afternoon they reach the frontline, on the Brugsebaan halfway between Egem and Zwevezele, the first German unit they come across is the Panzerjäger Abteilung 255, the soldiers inform their CO and the staff of Pz Jg Abt 255 comes to the frontline to check out the situation.
    This is exactly the time some anonymous photographer took this picture.
    In the centre you see Major Schülze the CO of Pz Jg Abt 255, semi hidden behind his back you can see a glimpse of general Derousseaux, the Belgian officer with glasses in front of the German major is captain Liagre.
    Major Schülze will take the negotiation team to the staff of IR6 (30ID) and then they will continue their journey to the the HQ of the XI Armee Korps; General Kortzfleisch phones A.Hitler and informs him that the Belgians want to negotiate about their surrender. The answer of Hitler is short and blunt: no negotiation, only unconditional surrender; gen. Derousseaux agrees with this and they agree that the Belgian army will lay down his arms at 04h00 the next morning (May 28 1940).
    The negotiators drive back to the Belgian HQ at 22h20 they reach the Belgian line again, in the meanwhile the frontline has moved west again because of an order that was given at 21h00, the Belgian soldiers that hold the line now aren’t informed of the presence of a negotiation team in front of them, when they see the car with the white flag they think it is a German trick and they open fire.
    The windows of the car are smashed and the soldiers that bears the white flag loses his thumb; you can see this unlucky soldier on the picture, it is the soldier with the thick glasses behind captain Liagre.
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  4. #4
    Moderator Peter U's Avatar
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    This picture was taken by an anonimous photographer of the staff of Schwere Artillerie Abteilung (mot) 629 on May 19 1940.
    What you see is the crossing of the Schelde river in Antwerp by soldiers of IR309 (208ID), the Belgian artillery fires on the German boats, you can see the splashes of the shells in the river next to their boats.
    The picture was taken from the tower of the Antwerp cathedral, this tower was used by the artillery observers of the heavy artillery to guide the artillery fire that would cover the river crossing.
    - In the then & now picture you can see both the tower from which the original picture was taken and the left bank of the Schelde river.
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    Community Organizer Hambone's Avatar
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    Great pics and thread Peter! Stickied for reference. I need to go through and scan the Sgt. Hubert Weaver album. He took pics with a captured German camera and his. The pics aren't the greatest quality, particularly those with his American camera (pics from the captured German camera are far superior). Peter, notice the look in Weaver's eyes and those of Franz. They've seen the elephant. Thread:
    http://www.k98kforum.com/showthread....42-vet-history
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    Moderator Peter U's Avatar
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    Thanks Hambone, for adding the Sgt Weaver pictures to this thread.



    This another picture of a soldier that has seen the elephant.
    This picture was taken in the spring of 1944 in Prague, the soldier on the photo is a Flemish Waffen SS volunteer Norbert Van Hecke, he belonged to the Pionier company of the 6th Frw Sturmbrigade Langemarck.
    This Flemish kid was one of the 400 survivors of the 2000 men of the "Langemarck" brigade that were lost in the Ukrain fighting in Sithomir, Jampol and Stara-Konstantinow from December 31 1943 till March 11 1944.
    In that short period on the frontline he earned an IAB and a CCC; also notice the sunwheel colar tab.
    He has that weird look in his young eyes, the same as Rene Marien http://www.k98kforum.com/showthread....dbuch-grouping , also a surivor of the Ukrain campaign in the winter of '44; no doubt that their eyes have seen absolute horror on the easternfront.
    This picture would never have made it past the censors!
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    Senior Member jlj's Avatar
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    Interesting pics to be sure. Its nice to have the background stories, usually those are lost. JL

  8. #8
    Moderator Peter U's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jlj View Post
    Interesting pics to be sure. Its nice to have the background stories, usually those are lost. JL
    Alas to many photoalbums are cut in to pieces so that the pictures can be sold individually on websites like ebay.de and 321militaria.
    Personally I seldom buy lose pictures, first I don't want to support the commercial vandalism that is responsible for the destruction of so many photoalbums and secondly if you can view at pictures in an album or in a grouping they tell a story, removed from their album a photo becomes an anonimous object.
    With album removed pictures the background story is usually lost and it is that background story that places the picture in his right historical context and that historical context is what makes them intresting.


    P

  9. #9
    Moderator Peter U's Avatar
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    Together with the Schw Pz Jg Abt 559 I bought a Panzer photo album.
    This Westfeldzug album was made by Herbert Fabian, he was tank crewmember of Panzer Regiment 5 of the 3th Panzer Division.
    Herbert Fabian was KIA on April 11 1941 in Tobruk.


    Pz Rgt 5 fought in the first tank vs tank battle in history, this battle was fought on the fields of the gently rolling hills around Gembloux between May 12 and May 15 1940; I am not going to go in detail about this battle, but this interesting wiki page about it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Gembloux_(1940)
    I have selected 4 pictures from the album that have a connection with this battle.
    In the first picture you can see a mechanic working on a Pzkw III that has been hit by French anti tank shells, you can see at least two hits, one just right of the drivers viewing slot and one right of the canon, the driver and gunner must have been extremely lucky not to been hit themselves.
    The tank is #601, this is the tank of the company commander of the 6th company and besides a serial number this tank has also a name: Scharnhorst.
    On pictures 2 and 3 you can see the repaired tank back in action.
    You can see that the hole next to the viewing slot has been repaired with a metal plate also notice the French trophy helmet on the headlight.
    Picture 4 shows a French 25mm anti-tank canon that has been left behind on the battlefield; perhaps this was the canon that scored hits on #601.





    Sorry for the heavy watermarking but I need to protect these pictures from being copied.
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  10. #10
    Moderator Peter U's Avatar
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    This time not WW2 but WW1 pictures, they are two MG pictures made in the trenches around Ypres so I guess you gun collectors don't mind this.

    - The first picture is made in the spring of 1915 (the period of the second battle for Ypres, the first use of poison gas in battle) and comes from a photoalbum of an officer of Infantry Regiment 132 part of the 39th Infantry Division, in 1915 they were in the trenches around Ypres, Hill 60.
    On the picture you can see a Maxim MG placed behind an armoured plate.

    - The second picture comes from a 1915 photoalbum of a soldier of the fourth (Territorial) batallion of the duke of Wellington's West Riding Regiment.
    German WW1 photoalbums are rather common but British examples with pictures made in the trenches are rare as hens teeth.
    On the picture you can see private Wood behind a Vickers MG with a trench periscoop in a trench in Ypres.
    Believe me, this is a rare picture.

    Cheers,
    Peter
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