Photographs of the Eastern Front in World War Two (1)

About a year ago I bought a collection, on DVD, of what were,  supposedly,  some 12,000+  images of World War  2 . I was very surprised, and pleased, to see that most of them were not British or American but were in fact either Russian or German. I would like to share the best of these photographs with you because a good number of them have great photographic merits as well as capturing a split second in history. They also reflect quite accurately how that massive struggle was unfolding.

September 1st 1939. The Germans attacked Poland in some strength and soon, prisoners were being taken in large numbers:

On June 22nd 1941, came Operation Barbarossa. The Germans attacked the Soviet Union where lebensraum was almost limitless. Victories came easily. Cities were blown to bits:

Towns were destroyed:

And villages burned:

Russian prisoners were captured in their hundreds of thousands:

The Germans didn’t always feed the Russians. In years to come this would result in cannibalism in many of the camps. A German sentry would shoot a Russian prisoner, and the others, all starving, would then eat him:

For the advancing army, there were always meteorological problems, In the height of summer, it was dust:

But then it started to rain as autumn set in. Not too much to begin with. But then it got worse. The Russians call this time “распутица” (pronounced “rass-poot-eat-sa”) which means “the season of bad roads”.  The origin of the word is that “рас” (“rass”) means “in different directions” and “пут” (“poot”) means the road. And that’s exactly what happens as the road disappears into a sea of mud. It begins very gradually with this:

And it ends with this:

Traditionally, the weather starts to get colder and much more wintry on November 7th, the anniversary of the outbreak of the Russian Revolution. But the Germans did not know this, and they just woke up one day and there was a light dusting of snow, and the mud was all frozen. They preferred that. At least you could walk on frozen mud:

But then it snowed a little more, and a little more. At first it was very picturesque:

But then you find your tank is stuck in the frozen mud and the snowdrifts and it’s unusable. You expect to be given a winter uniform and winter equipment but it never comes. You start to feel cold. And it’s no fun playing stupid games in the snow any more:





Filed under History, military, Russia

26 responses to “Photographs of the Eastern Front in World War Two (1)

  1. An important set aptly captioned

  2. GP

    Many of these type pictures are overlooked. Kudos for this post, John!

  3. What a brilliant collection John. Was this from someone’s own DVD or a commercial one? Either way they are a great record of history in the making!

  4. John, thanks for sharing these photos. It’s so rare to get a glimpse of the German-Russian front. I feel for that horse trapped in the mud.

    • Pierre Lagacé


    • In both WW1 and WW2, millions of horses were killed. The Gerrnans in WW2 were a lot less mechanised than they wanted the Allies to believe, and 80-90% of the things they transported were carried at some point in their journey on horseback.
      I think that the horse in this photograph would probably have got out. His “handler” has put a feed bag round his neck, and seems to be unharnessing him. Furthermore, the mud is supporting the men and may well support the horse when the time comes.

  5. What emotive photos and how terrible it was. The way the Germans treated Russians is worse than terrible.

    • You are absolutely right, but, tragically, similar, or worse, treatment was meted out to the Jews or any number of other groups. It is not widely known, for example, that the Germans slaughtered every black person they found in Western Europe, particularly France. Here is a link:

      If you need a translation, go to google and search for “translate”. It makes it very easy!
      Just copy and paste the original into “French” on the left and ask it it for “English”. No “Aussie. Yet!

      • Thank you John, I will look tomorrow. It is now this old bloke’s bedtime

      • I have just read this. It is all a lot more than I can fathom. During this covid era I have written a short novel 70.000 approx words set in the Island of Jersey and Australia in the current times about a Russian woman who cannot forgive any thing at all about Germans after the way they treated Russians and the rest on Jersey but more specifically on Alderney.
        And there is the way the British authorities helped to save the Jews on the Channel Islands unless they were German Jews. And they left the Germans to deal with them.

      • Some very strange things happened on the Channel Islands. A number of people, especially those at the top, are said to have collaborated with the Germans, and the result was that the victims of their collaboration frequently went off to concentration camps in Europe.
        The powers-that-be make strenuous efforts nowadays to suppress these and other inconvenient truths.
        In similar vein, there is a desire to forget all about the concentration camp on Alderney where uncounted hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Russians were done to death. I recently saw a TV programme where a serious set of historians and archaeologists from an English university were trying to find out the truth of exactly how many Russians are buried in or near the old camp.
        The rulers of Alderney immediately stopped them doing any of their excavations and most of their other sonar type activities, making the programme virtually nothing about the camp, but mostly about the weird behaviour of the Alderney council, who apparently had major things they wished to hide.
        This article refers to the TV people who went to Alderney, but it is a couple of years more recent than the programme that I saw. It is worth reading!

        If you like conspiracy theories, you’ll also want to read

      • Thank you John. I am, unfortunately, aware of that, it features as a central part of my story. I have looked at reports from Professor Caroline Colls. I have corresponded with Dr Gilly Carr but I won’t go in to that. May I write to you on the address that appears in my ‘comments’ list?

      • Yes, that should be no problem.

  6. Chris Waller

    I knew that the conditions on the Eastern front were dreadful but I was not aware that Russian POWs were forced into cannibalism to survive. I can now understand why the Russians behaved so brutally when they entered Berlin. Neither did I know, as mentioned in one of your comments, that the Nazis killed all black people they encountered in Europe. I was completely unaware of that. Why has it never been more widely publicised?

    • As far as I know, Chris, it hasn’t been publicised because it wasn’t known that there were any black men in France in 1940. But there were. There were soldiers from France’s West African colonies and there were a number of black musicians working in the cafes and bars of Paris. Furthermore, after WW1 a number of American black soldiers, (used to load and unload trains etc) remained in north eastern France because they were in relationships with white French girls, and, in any case, they found discrimination in France a lot less than in their homeland. This was up to a thousand men, it is thought.
      The Germans killed them all, but the story only emerged in the last 30 or 40 years. Here is a link to events with Senegalese soldiers, who were all shot:

      The Russians were brutal as they swept into Germany, but of the other three allies, the French were the next most brutal, because they had experience of the Germans’ behaviour in their country. So does Wikipedia:

  7. I appreciate your sharing of these historical photos. My whole life, I have had a particular interest in WWII history. I was so lucky to have had excellent history teachers in my school time. Both my parents were young during the war and involved in each their way. The war marked my childhood, growing up in the shadows of it

    • I agree with you about WW2. It is an amazing topic with an almost infinite number of aspects to it. Sadly, it also marks a number of new lows in human behaviour such as the death camps and the large scale murder of military prisoners.
      You were very lucky to have interesting history teachers. Normally they tend to go on and on and on, or at least ours did!

      • Thank you for replying to me. Mine was special. He and his family escaped the Russian Revolution and came to Sweden before settling in Denmark. I believe they were embassy people sent from Denmark in the Zar period. Then he became a teacher and treated us as if we were Grammar School pupils so that en every subject he taught us on a much higher level than generally in Public schools. As a goodbye, he took our class to Prague the year before the Soviet invasion on his initiative in the summer holiday. I have written a post about him

      • Thank you for sharing the story with us, Maria.

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