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Ordinary Men, Extraordinary Photos

Judith Levin and Daniel Uziel

  1. See, for example, Sybil Milton, "Images of the Holocaust," in Holocaust and Genocide Studies, 1:1 (1986), pp. 27-61; 1:2 (1986), pp. 193-216; Frank Daba Smith, Photography and the Holocaust, unpublished dissertation., (London, Leo Baeck College, 1994); Asthetik der Fotografie, Heft 55 (1995). On ִFotogeschichte; Beitraege zur Geschichte und the use of photographs in the Third Reich, see Hermann Hinkel, Zur Funkton des Bildes im deutschen Faschismus (Steinbach Giesse: Anabas Verlag, 1975). None of these works attempts to create a method that encompasses both the issue of photography and the historical question associated with it.
  2. The Yad Vashem photo archives (YVPA) contain hundreds of photographs of this type, as does the catalogue of an exhibition of Wehrmacht war crimes first held in 1995 in Germany. This catalogue, like the exhibition itself, indicates the extent of the photography phenomenon among policemen and soldiers of the Third Reich. Although the material cannot be quantified today, the number of relevant photos is very large. Hamburger Institut fuer Sozialforschung, ed., Vernichtungskrieg. Verbrechen der Wehrmacht 1941 bis 1944: Ausstellungskatalog (Hamburg: Hamburger Edition, 1996).
  3. See the photo collection of the Bundesarchiv-Militaerarchiv, Freiburg, recently forwarded in large part to the Bundesarchiv Koblenz (BAK). This collection includes more than 1,000 personal albums. This vast number, along with other findings that reach Yad Vashem Archives intermittently, point to the popularity of this interesting form of documentation.
  4. Susan Sontag, On Photography (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1973), p. 6.
  5. Berliner Illustrierte Zeitung, July 24, 1941.
  6. See letters quoted in Walter Manoschek, ed., "Es gibt nur eines fuer das Judentum: Vernichtung"; Das Judenbild in deutschen Soldatenbriefen (Hamburg: Hamburger Edition, 1995), pp. 13, 26, 30, 32, 40, 42 (Manoschek, Das Judenbild).
  7. Dieter Reinfarth and Victora Schmidt-Linsenhoff, "Die Kamera der Toetoer," in Hannes Heer, ed., Vernichtungskrieg. Verbrechen der Wehrmacht 1941 bis 1944 (Hamburg: Hamburger Edition, 1995), pp. 478-502 (Heer, Vernichtungskrieg); Bernd Hueppauf, "Der Entleerte Blick," in ibid., pp. 504-525. The first two authors mentioned made this distinction in order to narrow the focus of their article to the second type of photograph only. They erred in placing the general population of murderers under one heading. Their rendering of the matter does not differentiate between SS and Gestapo agents and soldiers and police. This generalization led the authors to treat Nazi ideology as a thin layer of legitimacy that shields a deeper motive intrinsic to the human psyche. This detaches the argument from the Nazi framework and universalizes the motive for the murder. Bernd Hueppauf reached a similar conclusion, although in a different way. In his opinion, the murder photos illuminate the photographer's ability to disengage from the horrifying event that he is photographing by using the camera as a buffer of sorts between himself and the victims. He extends his argument by depicting the 1991 Gulf War in Iraq and Kuwait as the pinnacle of the process of disengagement between photographers and photographed events. Clearly, the weakness of such an argument is also rooted in the disengagement it creates between the special circumstances of the photos that it attempts to explain and the explanation. Even though he wrote his article eleven years after that of Reinfarth and Schmidt-Linsenhoff, Hueppauf misses the point because he uses psychological arguments devoid of concrete examples.
  8. See testimony of a German photographer who filmed an execution near Kaunas on June 25, 1941. The SS officer in charge refrained from confiscating his camera only after the man proved that he was serving as a photographer for the commander of the 16th army, Field Marshal Von Bosch. Willi Dressen, Volker Riess, and Ernst Klee, Schoene Zeiten (Frankfurt am Main: Fischer, 1988), pp. 38-39 (Dressen, Klee, and Riess, Schoene Zeiten).
  9. Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust (New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1996), (Goldhagen, Hitler's Willing Executioners). p. 240. Cited from material of the investigation of one of the company commanders in the battalion. To the best of our knowledge, Goldhagen is the only researcher who noticed that photographs of this type were disseminated in a manner verging on the commercial.
  10. Heer, Vernichtungskrieg.
  11. YVPA, FA-285/1. See, for example, a collection of photos from the Lublin Ghetto that the soldier dedicated "to Elsa with love."
  12. David Bankier, "On Modernization and the Rationality of Extermination,” Yad Vashem Studies 24 (1994), p. 125.
  13. For example, see an order from General Keitel to Wehrmacht soldiers on November 2, 1941: "Befehl des Chefs des Oberkommandos der Wehrmacht ueber das Verbot, Exekutionen an Sowjetmenschen zu Fotografieren", in Hauptarchivverwaltung beim Ministerrat der Ukr.SSR, Die Geschichte Warnt (Kiev: Verlag fuer politische Literatur der Ukraine, 1986), p. 59. See also Heydrich's instructions to the police on November 11, 1941, Yad Vashem Archives (YVA), 053/121. Proof that these orders were often violated surfaces in a protest from the Ministry for the East (Ostministerium) to the Wehrmacht High Command (OKW), on April 24, 1944, in the matter of soldiers who, despite repeated orders, continued to carry photographs that were harmful in the propaganda sense. YVA, Nuremburg document, TR-2/NO-5913.
  14. See, for example, the first section of Charles W. Sydnor, Soldiers of Destruction: The SS Death's Head Division 1933-1945 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977).
  15. YVPA, FA-192.
  16. Froschauer and Renate Geyer, Quellen des Hasses—Aus dem Archiv des “Stuermer” (Nuremberg: Selbstverlag der Stadt Nuernberg, 1988) (Froschauer and Geyer, Quellen des Hasses) p. 52.
  17. See book of pictures: Hans Diebow, "Der Ewige Jude" (Munich-Berlin: F. Eher, Verlag, 1938). See also catalogue of exhibition in Vienna: "Der Ewige Jude: Gross Politische Schau der NSDAP," idem. (Berlin: Institut fuer deutsche Kultur und Wirtschaftspropaganda, n.d.).
  18. YVPA, FA-161.
  19. Examples of visual antisemitic propaganda are the newspaper Der Stuermer and the "Eternal Jew" exhibition, to name only two. A more concrete example is a collection of antisemitic drawings and photographs from Der Stuermer, YVPA, FA-196. Concerning the encounter with these "authentic" Jews, consider the letter from a noncommissioned officer in Wehrmacht Medical Battalion 601, dated June 30, 1941, in Manoschek, Das Judenbild, p. 30: "We crossed the Jewish quarter, it was hard to describe the condition [of the quarter] and its inhabitants.... Although all the Jews are wearing armbands, one could recognize them even without this sign, just as we recognized them in the Greek market in Kolen, except that here they occur in larger numbers—literally masses."
  20. YVPA, FA-76.
  21. Froschauer and Geyer, Quellen des Hasses, pp. 5-30.
  22. YVPA, FA-109. The photographs were evidently taken in 1941.
  23. Ulrich Keller, ed., The Warsaw Ghetto in Photographs: 206 Views Made in 1941 (New York: Dover, 1984), pp. x-xi. For an example of the work of Wehrmacht propaganda photographers, see the collection in YVPA 3955 (source in BAK, collection of negatives of PK 1/256). For an example of the use made of such photos in the popular press, see Berliner Illustrierte Zeitung, July 24, 1941.
  24. YVPA, FA-300/108 and 173.
  25. YVPA, 4982/19. The letters-to-the-editor department was rather popular during the war and gave preference to communications from soldiers.
  26. YVPA, FA-279. An example of deliberate propaganda use of photos of French Army prisoners-of-war from Africa occurs in a collection of three-dimensional photographs (in which the three-dimensional effect is obtained by means of special eyeglasses) distributed in Germany in 1940-1941.
  27. Dressen, Klee, and Riess, Schoene Zeiten, pp. 7-15.
  28. Zvi Yasheev, ed., Olkusz: A Memory Book Dedicated to a Community Annihilated in the Holocaust (Tel Aviv: Olkusz Association in Israel, 1972), pp. 125-132; YVPA, 541/1.
  29. YVPA, 114FO9.
  30. YVPA, 117FO5 and 77AO7.
  31. Dressen, Klee, and Riess, Schoene Zeiten, p. 115.
  32. Ortwin Buchbender and Reinhold Stertz, Das Andere Gesicht des Krieges (Munich: C. H. Beck, 1982), p. 74. Such letters were not only sent to the editor of Der Stuermer, who published them. Many soldiers sent antisemitic letters to their homes, not for publication. See the collection edited by Manoshek, which includes approximately 100 letters from soldiers: Manoschek, Das Judenbild.
  33. Manoschek, Das Judenbild, pp. 172-173.
  34. Distribution lists of films to Wehrmacht units posted to Luxembourg, northern Germany, and Denmark, January-April 1941: BA-MA, RW4/v293. Concerning the influence of propaganda films in Nazi Germany on their audiences, see Josef Wulf, Theater und Film in Dritten Reich, eine Dokumentation (Reinbeck bei Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1966), p. 447: “In the Auschwitz trial in Frankfurt am-Main, the defendant Stefan Barezki, formerly a corporal in the SS, said, ‘They showed us incitement films such as The Jew Suess and Om Krueger. Those are the titles I still remember. What an effect this had on the prisoners! The films were shown to the staff. How the prisoners looked the next day!...’”
  35. Wolfgang Diewerge, ed., Deutsche Soldaten sehen die Sowjet-Union (Berlin: W. Limpert, 1941), p. 38.
  36. "Wir hatten geglaubt, wir konnten anst ndig bleiben'—Historiker und Zeitzeugen diskutierten in der Zeit Redaktion," in Zeit Punkte (1995), p. 84.
  37. Christopher R. Browning, Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland (New York: Harper Collins, 1992), pp. 176-184.
  38. Goldhagen, Hitler's Willing Executioners, p. 14.
  39. Ibid., pp. 245-246.
  40. See, for example, Omer Bartov's criticism of Goldhagen's book, "Ordinary Monsters," The New Republic (April 29, 1996), pp. 35-36. See also critiques of the book by Goetz Aly and Raul Hilberg, in this volume, and articles by Avraham Barkai and Yisrael Gutman [ed.].
  41. Omer Bartov, Hitler's Army: Soldiers, Nazis, and War in the Third Reich (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), pp.109-110 (Bartov, Hitler's Army).
  42. B. K. Schultz, "Rasse und Erblehre," in Heinrich Stockler, ed., Die Leica in Beruf und Wissenschaft (Frankfurt am Main: Breidenstein Verlag, 1941).
  43. Hans Barkhausen, Filmpropaganda fuer Deutschland im Ersten und Zweite Weltkrieg (Hildesheim: Olm Press, 1982), p. 212.
  44. BA-MA, RW4/v241, teil 1. "Propagandaweisung des Reichspropagandaministers fuer den 2. Oktober 1939.”
  45. BA-Filmarchiv, UTW-472/1939.
  46. Wedel von Hasso, Die Propagandatruppen der Deutschen Wehrmacht, (Neckargemund: Vowinckel Verlag, 1962).
  47. Manfred Messerschmidt, Die Wehrmacht im NS Staat. Zeit der Indoktrination, (Hamburg: V. Decker, 1969), pp. 326-327, "Mitteilungen fuer die Truppe nr. 116."
  48. YVPA, V-893/1, "Kampf dem Fleckfieber."
  49. Bartov, Hitler's Army, p. 182.
  50. Manoschek, Das Judenbild, p. 62.
  51. See, for example, Joe J. Heydecker, "Photographing behind the Warsaw Ghetto Wall, 1941," Holocaust and Genocide Studies, 1:1 (1986), pp. 63-77; idem., Where is Thy Brother Abel? Documentary Photographs of the Warsaw Ghetto (Sao Paulo: privately published, 1981).
  52. For a good review of studies and literature on the universal explanations of the Holocaust, see Browning, Ordinary Men, pp. 159-189.
  53. The person who started the debate was Martin Broszat, in an article calling for the historicization of research on the Third Reich. "Plaedoyer fuer eine Historisierung des Nationalsozialismus," Merkur, 435 (1985), pp. 378-385; Ian Kershaw, The Nazi Dictatorship: Problems and Perspectives of Interpretation (London: Edward Arnold, 1989), chapter 9.
  54. See, for example, the albums prepared for the Warsaw Ghetto Judenrat, YVPA, FA-33, 34, 35, 36.