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Posts Tagged ‘Hitler

Back to the Middle Ages, Picture Post

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When Picture Post published “Back to the Middle Ages” November 26th 1938, the magazine was less than two months old. Launched on October 1st, it was from the very beginning staunchly anti-fascist, thanks to the editorship of Stefan Lorant, an Hungarian refugee who had been previously imprisoned by the Nazis in Munich.

Situations had gotten worse in Germany that November. An assassination of a German diplomat in Paris provided the Nazis with the pretext for the Kristallnacht, an antisemitic pogrom. To cover the event, Lorant thought he should juxtaposed the faces of the Nazi leadership alongside those of the writers, actors and scientists they were persecuting.

Four central figures loomed large above the headlines, three still well-known, one less so. Alongside Hitler, Goebbels, and Goering was Julius Streicher whose newspaper Der Stürmer was the centerpiece of the Nazi propaganda. A former schoolmaster who was expelled from his profession, Streicher was anti-Semitic, almost to a comical degree: he wrote anti-Semitic books for children, and frequently repeated the medieval accusation that Jews killed Christian children to make matzoh. An early practitioner of what you would today call ‘Fake News’, Streicher argued that since his articles were based on race, not religion, they were protected by the German constitution.

When Picture Post went to press, Streicher was at the height of his noxious power: at Nuremberg, where he was the local Nazi party chief, he was treated almost as an absolute monarch. During Kristallnacht, he ordered his followers to sack the Great Synagogue of the city. But Kristallnacht also proved to be his downfall: he was accused of keeping Jewish property seized after Kristallnacht in November 1938, and his enemies within the Nazi party hierarchy — especially Goering whose daughter he once accused of being conceived by artificial insemination — were all to glad to denounce him. Hitler also grew tired of Streicher’s hysterical tirades, and would travel to Nuremberg only in secret, in order to avoid having to dine with Streicher.

In 1940, Streicher was finally stripped of his party offices, although his paper continued publishing until the war’s end. But Der Stürmer, like its publisher, itself limped into the 1940s. Once its pages were full of denunciations of Germans who were friendly to Jews or patrons of Jewish businesses, and exaggerated stories about misconduct and crimes by Jews, but as deportation of Jews intensified and Jewish life all but disappeared across Germany, there was little material for the paper. After 1940, this was literally true as paper restrictions were imposed on Der Stürmer.

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The photo on page 19 read: Humanity at its Lowest. Young Nazis look on smiling while Elderly Jews are forced to scrub Vienna streets. On the back of this picture, the agency circulating it had felt it necessary to print: “Under no circumstances whatsoever may the source from which this picture was obtained, be revealed.”

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

February 20, 2017 at 5:19 am

Hitler’s Little Jig

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Seventy-one years ago today, Adolf Hitler accepted the surrender of the French government at a ceremony in Compiegne, France. On June 21, 1940, Hitler melodramatically received France’s surrender in the same railroad car in which Germany had signed the 1918 armistice that had ended the First World War, thereby adding an additional flourish to century-long rivalry between France and Germany. (In 1918, the Armistice was singed in that railcar because it had once belong to Napoleon III, who lost the Franco-Prussian War).

It was an episode full of pointless symbolism. Hitler sat in the same chair in which Marshal Foch had sat when he faced the defeated Germans in 1918. After listening to the reading of the preamble, Hitler – in a calculated gesture of disdain to the French delegates – left the carriage, leaving the negotiations to General Wilhelm Keitel (who ironically would sign a surrender of Germany five years later).

After stepping outside, while talking to his generals and aides, Hitler stepped backwards; however, this is not what audiences in the Allied countries saw. John Grierson, director of the Canadian information and propaganda departments, noticed that Hitler raised his leg rather high up while stepping backwards. He looped this moment repeatedly to create the appearance that Hitler was childishly jumping with joy.

In those days of newsreels before films, the scene was played over and over again in movie theaters, and served the purpose of provoking popular disdain towards Hitler. 

The Armistice site was destroyed on Hitler’s orders three days later; the monuments, which included a German eagle impaled by a sword, and a large stone tablet which read “Here on the eleventh of November 1918 succumbed the criminal pride of the German Reich, vanquished by the free peoples which it tried to enslave”, were destroyed. A statue of Foch was left intact so that it would be honoring a wasteland. The Armistice carriage was taken to Berlin, but later destroyed in war. See here for Hitler’s reaction to the Armistice site.

 

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

June 21, 2011 at 10:16 am

The End of the Thousand-Year Reich

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As the Second World War came to a close, a wave of suicides swept Berlin and other parts of Germany. Hitler was a lifelong admirer of Wagner and his climatic opera, Götterdämmerung (“Twilight of the Gods”) where the heroine Brünnhilde returns the stolen cursed ring to the River Rhine and hurls herself onto her dead lover Siegfried’s funeral pyre. This immolation unleashes a fiery conflagration that topples the stronghold of the gods, Valhalla. According to a dispatch from a Japanese diplomat in Berlin, Hitler initially planned “to embark alone in a plane carrying bombs and blow himself up in the air somewhere over the Baltic” if the Allies enter Berlin. His motive was to suggest to his supporters “that he had become a god and was dwelling in heaven” — a Brünnhildean self-sacrifice, in a Messerschmitt.

In the end, his suicide was less grandiose and ignominious — although it didn’t stop some of his fervent followers from believing that Hitler had escaped unharmed from the wreckage of his 1000-year Reich. But Hitler was not the only Nazi to follow Brünnhilde’s example. Goebbels, Bormann and Himmler all committed suicide, as did Justice Minister Otto-Georg Thierack and Culture Minister Bernhard Rust. Eight out of 41 regional party leaders, seven out of 47 senior SS and police chiefs, fifty-three out of 553 army generals, fourteen out of 98 Luftwaffe generals and eleven out of 53 admirals killed themselves. Housing Commissar Robert Ley strangled himself awaiting trial at Nuremberg. Goering would follow him when the Nuremberg judges denied him the firing squad he requested.

This suicidal impulse was not confined to the Nazi elite. Ordinary Germans in untold numbers responded to the prospect of defeat in the same way. At the Berlin Philharmonic’s last performance, which coincidentally but not too surprisingly was Götterdämmerung, the audience was given potassium cyanide pills. In April 1945 there were 3,881 recorded suicides in Berlin, nearly twenty times the figure for March. Untold numbers of victims of rape by the Soviet Red Army also committed suicide, and news of violence and rape further propelled mass suicides in villages all over Germany. Although the motives was widely explained as the “fear of the Russian invasion”, the suicides also happened in the areas liberated by the British and American troops.

Mass suicides that created a sensation were those of Leipzig burgomaster’s family, that was captured by Margaret Bourke-White and Lee Miller. The photos showed a different approach between this two great female war-photographers. Bourke-White, a meticulous observer as always, kept her distance from the tragedy, even taking photos from the gallery above. Miller moved in closer; a fashion photographer covering the war for Vogue, Miller’s photo of the body of burgomaster’s daughter was almost a fashion shoot of a wax mannequin — her Nazi armband immaculately displayed, her lips parted as if waiting for a true love’s kiss that would revive her.

Bourke-White's pictures are on the left, and Miller's on the right.

 

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

March 18, 2011 at 2:57 am

Posted in Politics, Society, War

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Jesse Owens

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Hitler used the 1936 Olympics as a propaganda tool, inadvertently creating the modern Games, complete with torch relays, grand stadiums, publicity films and screens set up outside to transmit the Games. What the Nazis couldn’t stage-manage were the outcomes, and wonderful story of Jesse Owens smashing Hitler’s theories of racial superiority on the 100m sprint is an oft repeated story. (Enthusiastic crowd reaction on this clip suggests that the German people are less Aryan-obsessed than Hitler.Although his coach warned Owens about a potentially hostile crowd, there were German cheers of “Yesseh Oh-vens” or just “Oh-vens” from the crowd. Owens was a true celebrity in Berlin, mobbed by autograph seekers.)

It is oft mentioned that the Nazi leader refused to present Jesse Owens with his medal, shake his hand and subsequently stormed out of the stadium. However, Hitler was not even in the stadium when Jesse Owens was securing his medals, and his absence was more to do with his row with the Olympic organizers than with Owens . Hitler had congratulated German athletes on the first day, only to be informed by the IOC officials that he should congratulate all athletes or none, in order to show neutrality as the presiding head of state. In a characteristic fit of petulance, Hitler refused congratulate anyone after the first day of the competition, not even the German athletes. (Hitler did snub a black American athlete on the first day; just before Cornelius Johnson was to be decorated, Hitler left the stadium.)

Jesse Owens tried his best to correct the myth-making that went on around him: he admitted that he received the greatest ovations of his career at Berlin. he recalled:  “When I passed the Chancellor he arose, waved his hand at me, and I waved back at him. I think the writers showed bad taste in criticizing [Hitler] …. Hitler didn’t snub me—it was FDR who snubbed me. The president didn’t even send me a telegram”. Such was an atmosphere of segregation back in the U.S. that Owens was never invited to the White House to be congratulated. When there was a ticker-tape parade in New York in his honour, he had to attend the reception at the Waldorf-Astoria using the back elevator set aside for blacks. (Even in Berlin, he was allowed to travel and stay together with whites).

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

June 21, 2010 at 10:31 pm

Posted in Politics, Society

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Hitler in 1914

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The above photo showed Adolf Hitler in the huge crowd which heard the announcement of the First World War outside Field Marshals’ Hall, Munich on 2 August 1914. After the Nazis came to power, Hitler mentioned being outside the hall when the war was declared. A German photographer went back and looked through his photos and found the above picture.

At the outbreak of war, 25-year old Adolf Hitler was an aimless drifter and failed artist in Munich and had previously failed army entry tests because he was too weak to carry weapons. Yet, during the wartime, Germany needed soldiers and Hitler was able to enlist in the Bavarian army; although he was not considered for further promotion because of ‘a lack of leadership qualities’, he was awarded the Iron Cross First Class, an honour rarely given to a lance corporal (which showed that he did not lack courage). The Great War ended for Hitler inside a hospital where he was being treated for temporary blindness caused by chlorine gas. There he heard the news of German surrender, deeply incredulous; he came to believe, like many other nationalists, that the army, “undefeated in the field,” had been “stabbed in the back” by civilian leaders and Marxists back home.

Hitler returned to Munich after a short failed stint as a borderguard and joined a nationalist group German Workers’ Party (DAP), which was formed by extremists and anti-Semites as a counterforce to Bolshevism. He rose quickly through its ranks and in July 1921, he took over its leadership renaming it the National Socialist German Workers’ Party. The rest as they say is history.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

May 29, 2010 at 11:53 pm

Posted in Politics, War

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The Man Who Never Was

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Early morning on the 1st of May 1943, a Spanish fisherman discovered a corpse clothed in British military attire which had washed ashore. Apparently a casualty of an airplane accident at sea, he had a briefcase chained to him. Identified as Major William Martin of the British Royal Marines, the body and the briefcase was demanded by the British Admiralty.

Spain, technically a neutral party during WWII, turned them in, but not before letting the Abwehr– the German intelligence organization– examine everything. Inside the suitcase was the letter from Sir Archibald Nye, vice chief of the Imperial General Staff to Sir Harold Alexander, the British commander in North Africa, which outlined the Allies’ plans to invade Europe from Sardinia, Corsica and Greece. This vital information was rushed to Berlin.

On May 12th, Hitler sent an order: “Measures regarding Sardinia and the Peloponnese take precedence over everything else,” diverting resources away from Sicily, through which the Allied Forces eventually invaded. This was because Germans had fallen for an elaborate deception: Major Martin never existed, and was part of a ruse named, “Operation Mincemeat”.

The British Intelligence procured the body of a 34-year-old man who had recently died with pneumonia, with lungs full of fluid as a drowned man’s would. To create the aura of authenticity, the corpse was given IDs, keys, personal letters, and other possessions such as overdue bills and a letter from his fiance.

Considering the deliberate efforts to protect the true identity of Major Martin at the time, and the wishes of his real family who granted permission to use the body on the condition that the man’s identity never be revealed, it is quite possible that we will never know the real name of Major Martin.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

January 28, 2010 at 10:31 pm

Posted in War

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Lee Miller in Hitler’s Bathtub

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Lee Miller, covering WWII for Vogue teamed up with the American photographer David E. Scherman, a Life magazine correspondent on many assignments. The above photograph by Scherman of Miller in the bathtub of Adolf Hitler’s house in Munich is one of the most iconic images from the Miller-Scherman partnership. The New York Times had this to say: “A picture of the Führer balances on the lip of the tub; a classical statue of a woman sits opposite it on a dressing table; Lee, in the tub, inscrutable as ever, scrubs her shoulder. A woman caught between horror and beauty, between being seen and being the seer.”

The night after Miller visited Dachau, on April 30, 1945 — Hitler had committed suicide in Berlin just earlier that day — Miller and Scherman entered Munich with the American 45th Division that was liberating the city. They happened upon a dilapidated and normal-looking apartment building on Prinzenregentplatz 27, and realized, upon entering, that it was Hitler’s Munich apartment. It was here that Chamberlain signed away Czechoslovakia.

They billeted there for three days, surrounded by china and line marked with swastikas and the initials A.H. Scherman slept in Hitler’s bed; Miller had her picture taken at the Führer’s desk. Scherman recalled that while Miller bathed, an angry lieutenant banged on the door, towel and soap in hand. It is believed that there was also a similar photograph with the roles reversed: Scherman as the subject, and Miller as the photographer. The duo later headed to a villa belonging to Eva Braun three blocks away, also napped on the bed and tried the telephone marked ”Berlin.” Miller wrote to her Vogue editor Audrey Winters:

I was living in Hitler’s private apartment when his death was announced, midnight of Mayday … Well, alright, he was dead. He’d never really been alive to me until today. He’d been an evil-machine-monster all these years, until I visited the places he made famous, talked to people who knew him, dug into backstairs gossip and ate and slept in his house. He became less fabulous and therefore more terrible, along with a little evidence of his having some almost human habits; like an ape who embarrasses and humbles you with his gestures, mirroring yourself in caricature. “There, but for the Grace of God, walks I.”

When the photo came out, it was considered an extremely poor judgement. For some, Miller posing nude in the tub of one of the most repulsive men in history was nothing more than a ill-timed reflection of the adage, “To the victor goes the spoils”. For others, it represents the power of life over death, “The living do what they can and the dead suffer what they must”. Lee Miller herself shied away from the controversies but reprouding the image very rarely and noted that she was merely trying to wash the odors of Dachau away.

(A commenter below has alerted to me about a missing negative from this series, which allegedly shows Miller undressing/getting into the tub. It was burnt in the darkroom, and Anthony Spencer has tried to recreate it in a large-scale print, “It cries itself to sleep” (1973). I haven’t managed to get hold of it myself.)

A less famous variant

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

January 7, 2010 at 12:44 am

Posted in War

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Millimetternich Assassinated

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In February 1934, in a desperate bid to prevent a German takeover of Austria, Austrian Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss abandoned parliamentary government and established a dictatorship. Although no democrat, Dollfuss was convinced that his own brand of Austrofascism could stand as a bulwark against national socialism of Germany and communism of USSR.

Nicknamed “Millimetternich’ (a nod to his diminutive 5′ height and to Prince Metternich), Dollfuss used Austrian troops and Fascist militias to suppress the Social Democrats, which resulted in more than 1,000 deaths. On July 25th, 1934, less than a month after the ‘Night of the Long Knives’ when Hitler purged stormtroopers who had helped him to power, Nazi groups in Austria launched a coup d’état. In Vienna, Nazis stormed the chancellery and shot Dollfuss through the chest. The orders for the execution had come directly from the highest Nazi circles. 

Alarmed by these events, Italy — which was then Austria’s fascist Ally — mobilized, delaying Hitler’s plans to annex Austria proper. However,  the assassination crippled Austria, creating two rival dictators — cautious yet appeasing Chancellor Kurt von Schuschnigg and his vice-chancellor, Prince Ernst Rudiger von Starhemberg, “a boot-licking hero worshipper of Benito Mussolini”. Two years would pass before von Starhemberg was forced out by Schuschnig, who disagreed with Starhemberg’s anti-Nazi views.

By 1938, Mussolini was in an alliance with Hitler and Austria was encircled. Schuschnig frantically tried to reach agreements with Hitler but the inevitable was fast approaching. On 20th February 1938, Hitler gave a speech before the Reichstag where he declared, “The German Reich is no longer willing to tolerate the suppression of ten million Germans across its borders.” Soon, an ultimatum was sent to Vienna to cede power to the Austrian Nazi Party or face invasion.

Thus invited to form a government was Austrian Nazi leader Aruthr Seyß-Inquart who promptly requested military occupation by the German army. The Anschluss had began; a unification was later overwhelmingly approved by a referendum (99% in favour), the Jews having been disenfranchised a few days prior.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

January 6, 2010 at 8:36 am

Stalin’s Son

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Stalin’s son, Jakov Djugashvili Stalin was an engineer by profession, During the Second World War, he served as a senior lieutenant and battery commander of the 14th Howitzer Regiment, attached to the 14th Tank Division and was captured on 16 July 1941 near Vitebsk by the Nazis.

On discovering that their prisoner was Stalin’s son, the Germans attempted to exploit him for propaganda purposes, but did not succeed. Refusing privileges, he asked to remain with the rank-and-file soldiers. In all the photographs of jakov, he deliberately refuses to look directly at the camera. This didn’t prevent the Germans from leafletting to Red Army soldiers “Do not shed your blood for Stalin! He has already fled to Samara! His own son has surrendered! If Stalin’s son is saving his own skin, then you are not obliged to sacrifice yourself either!”

After the battle of Stalingrad, Hitler suggested through the Swedish Red Cross that Jakov be exchanged for Field Marshal Paulus. Stalin refused, saying: “A marshal would not be exchanged for a lieutenant”. Hitler’s counter proposition to exchange Jakov for Hitler’s nephew Leo Raubal was not accepted either. (Jakov never got along with his dad, who called him a “mere cobbler.”) Djugashvili died on the electrified wire of Sachenhausen concentration camp on 14 April 1943, below. Much controversy surrounded the death. Some believe it was suicide, others a failed escape attempt. Some saw the dirty hand of the German SS behind.

After the war, in an uncharacteristic move, Stalin offered a $250,000 reward in East Germany to anyone who could provide details of how Jakov died. In 1945, U.S. and British intelligence teams found a letter by Heinrich Himmler on details of the failed escape attempt and attached was the below picture of young Stalin stretched out on the camp fence. They decided, however, to withhold the information from Stalin in order to spare him any personal pain.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

January 3, 2010 at 7:51 am

Posted in Politics, War

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A Nazi Funeral in London

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The extraordinary photo above captured in April 1936, showed the funeral of the German Ambassador Leopold Von Hoesch, with the people clearly giving the Nazi salute on the balcony of the Germany Embassy on Carlton House Terrace, overlooking The Mall. This photo was unearthed for the Discovery Channel programme: ‘Wartime London with Harry Harris’, a London cab driver and historian who has driven a taxi for two decades.

The Grenadier Guards and Nazi soldiers march together down The Pall Mall carrying a swastika-draped coffin; well-liked by most British statesmen, von Hoesch was considered as the best hope for enhancing the Anglo-German relations during the early 1930s. He was a career diplomat but no Nazi; he would even be disturbed by this display of Nazi pageantry at his funeral — he frequently feuded with Hitler over disarmament and vocally denounced Hitler’s invasion of Rhineland. If it were not for this untimely death, it was most likely that he would have been recalled.

Von Hoesch was replaced by his nemesis, Joachim von Ribbentrop, who lasting legacy in London was to transform the German Embassy into a grandiose building that would convey some of the portentous glamour of the Third Reich. The 6-9 Carlton House Terrance, the then embassy within the sight of the Buckingham Palace and the Foreign Office, was renovated with Albert Speer himself flying in from Berlin and designing staircase inside made from Italian marble donated by Mussolini. No. 7 was used as a base to house German military attachés and the headquarters of the Nazi espoinage machine in London.

The Germans were kicked out at the outbreak of war, and the building was stripped of its Nazi fixtures before it was rented to the Royal Society in 1967. There are still signs that this was once a Nazi residence, including the border designs of swastikas on the floor of one public room. A memorial to Giro, von Hoesch’s dog which died in 1934 when he made a fatal connection with an exposed electricity wire, was also buried here. Its grave on the front garden to No 9, with the epitaph “Giro: Ein treuer Begleiter” (“Giro: A true companion”), remains Great Britain’s sole Nazi memorial, situated somewhat inappropriately in an area filled with monuments to heroes of the British Empire.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

November 3, 2009 at 11:08 am

The Profiles of the Fuhrer

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How would Hitler look without a mustache? or hair? Would he be able to change the appearance at the end of the war and disappear? These were the questions that haunted the Allied Occupying Forces in 1945. Hitler’s death was not a certainty in 1945, and these pictures were planned to be posted up all over Germany in the summer of 1945 to ease finding the “fugitive” dictator.

In 1944, the U.S. Secret Service and Office of Strategic Services (OSS) instructed the New York makeup artist Eddie Senz to retouch Hitler’s photos for possible profiles. Senz noted that the most difficult part of Hitler’s face to disguise would have been his penetrating eyes. The photos remained buried in the OSS archives until 1998, when the German Publication, der Spiegel, published them for the first time in May 1998, under the title Steckbriefe des Führers (The Profiles of the Fuhrer).

Wikipedia has high-resolution images of Senz profiles.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

June 13, 2009 at 1:35 am

Posted in Politics

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