About a year ago I bought a collection, on DVD, of what were, supposedly, more than 12,000 images of World War Two . 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 some of these photographs with you, because a number of them have great photographic merits as well as capturing a split second in history.
Please be aware that these photographs do indeed capture moments in history. They portray the deeds of the Soviet Union, not the deeds of present day Russia, a country run, like China and North Korea, on the mushroom method of management, although, of course, you can be sure that Putin’s suit will always remain spotless.
Today then , I’m going to look at the some of the pictures of children. Some were really quite cute, although they made no effort to disguise the fact that a war was going on:
In this picture, the war is a soldier, looking out of the window, making a call by field telephone :
Another photograph made the point that in the twenty or so years since the revolution in 1917, the Soviets had made enormous strides in improving living standards, particularly in the cities. Don’t miss the Demonic Phantom in the middle of the back row. Or perhaps she’s the KGB Milklady
But then, the Germans invaded the Soviet Union and the Heinkels and the Dorniers rained death over Russian cities. This picture has done duty as being English boys watching the Battle of Britain, but the lack of clothing and the short, almost shaven haircuts, say to me “Western Russia”, a place of unending flat fields where Operation Barbarossa took place in absolutely splendid summer weather. Look at how the boys are amazed, fascinated, yet each one of them has a look of fear in their eyes.
Boys would play their part in the war. For Yuri Gagarin, the cosmonaut, it was throwing caltrops on the road, pouring soil into tank batteries about to be recharged and mixing up the chemicals used for this job. No wonder! His school was burned down, his family were forced to live in a mud hut and two of his brothers went to Poland for slave labour. In this picture, the boys seem to be snipers of some sort, using enormous long barrelled rifles, or is the nearer one a machine gun?
Next comes a beautiful picture of three bewildered and possibly orphaned little children in front of what may well be the ruins of their house. In Yuri Gagarin’s village, some 27 houses were burnt down. Hitler’s plans for the Russians involved the complete eradication of all the Russian villages, towns and cities, and to have the population housed in large camps from which they would be able to cultivate the land for the Germans. As these slave labourers died off, German families would come east to farm the land as their own:
A similar picture but the little boy is clearly well aware of what has happened to their family, and he just can’t take any more:
This is an unknown Russian village with two more little children. Both the village and its population have been destroyed:
The Germans were not in the slightest bit interested in the Russian civilian population. How could they be when they had carried out the massacre at Babi Yar and killed 33,771 Jews in two days, and the Rumbula massacre in Latvia where around 25,000 Jews were murdered in two days? As the Holocaust moved forward, the Germans would expect to find and kill all the Jews of a small town in a single day.
Russians, and indeed, all Slavs, were merely “untermenschen”, sub-humans, to be killed as the mood took them. The exceptions were the higher echelons of the Communist Party, who were killed on sight.
Human beings, no matter what may have happened to them, will always want to talk to each other and discuss. Here is Grandad, with his three grandsons, talking to somebody they know, probably about the future and where they are going to live. The Wehrmacht would burn down houses just because they felt like it, which may be what has happened here:
My records, which I was looking at last night, show that I published “An impossible Beatles Quiz (1….the Questions)” but that I did not ever publish the answers. For Quiz No 2, I did publish both the Questions and the Answers.
Does anybody out there remember?
I clearly thought I had published both Questions and Answers for Quiz 1, but the WordPress list of “Published” seems to think otherwise! Indeed, it thinks different things about the subject every single time I do a search!
Please write any thoughts in the “Comments” section of this particular blog post if you can help.
28 responses to “Photographs of the Eastern Front in World War Two (4)”
I wonder who took these photos and what happened to children who survived. It is terrible what we, human beings do to each other and to other animals. Thank you for sharing.
Most of the photographs were taken by official photographers. You were right to add animals to the list of casualties. They must have been completely bewildered by what was happening to them, especially the millions of horses used by both sides in this theatre of the war.
Casualties among humans in the Soviet Union were very heavy. It was said that every survivor had lost either a father, a mother, a brother or a sister, or more than one of the four.
Many thanks for sharing John! “Lest we Forget!” Unfortunately I think we have!
I would like to see an originally Russian idea taken up, whereby anybody who lost a relative or a friend can walk in a special parade, carrying their photograph, behind the departing people who took part in the official Armistice Day ceremonies. It is a very striking sight and every town or city’s parade has grown hugely year on year. A very anti-war activity.
So horribly topical today, John. I remember the quizzes, John, but not whether you published the answers, although I did better with the second one – I think you responded in a comment
Thank you, Derrick, what a memory you have! That was what happened and it explains why I found a blog post of the answers, unpublished, in the “Scheduled” area.
You right too, about the topicality of these photographs. Such scenes must be re-enacted on a daily basis in the Ukraine.
I appreciate this, John
The weapon you identified as possibly a machine gun is actually a PTRS-41 or Simonov anti-tank rifle (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PTRS-41).
Thanks very much indeed for that. I know next to nothing about armoured vehicles and equipment such as rifles, guns etc. I checked with the pictures in Wikipedia, though, and you are 100% right.
What is most fascinating for me, though, is that according to Wikipedia, these weapons are still being used in the Donbass in the war between by Donbas militiamen and the Ukrainians, complete with WW2 vintage ammunition.
Some of the children look catatonic. A sad situation when these events reach the children.
Yes, even after eighty years, your heart goes out to these poor little children, who may well now be orphans after their village was destroyed.
The Germans, of course, did not care. In the future, Hitler envisaged a Russian-free Russia, where the native population had been either worked to death or starved or shot. They would have been replaced by Germans who would farm the endless plains to produce wheat to feed the German people back home. All of the Russian cities, towns and villages would have been destroyed with only huge ranch type enclaves every fifty miles or so as bases for farming the land.
Hitler looked more to the future than I thought.
There was a rather interesting book I read years ago called “Hitler’s Table Talk” where his personal butler wrote down all of the things he said at the dinner table. He had lots of plans for everybody, believe me!
That would be interesting to read. I’ll have to look for it.
John, thanks for highlighting the trauma of war for kids. Those eight and over would’ve grown up real fast.
“My pleasure” isn’t quite the phrase, but I am sure you know what I mean.
I once asked my Dad whether he gave any thought to the fact that he must, inevitably, have killed women and children as he bombed them, but he said that nobody paid no heed to it, because if they had done, nobody would have gone.
When he left Bomber Command, he became a teacher of Under 14s and then Under-11s. When I first worked at the High School in Nottingham, there were a number of ex-RAF there. Whether, as my Dad possibly had done, they were trying to expiate any supposed sins they had committed, I do not know, but at least one of them showed some of the symptoms of what I now know to have been PTSD.
War and children should never never be associated. This post broke my heart and still as I write these words my heart hurts.
You are so right, Amy. Children are an excellent reason for wars never to be started, although I would extend it still further to include all human beings. Why won’t these macho idiots talk about their problems, about their grievances. Getting on for 100,000 soldiers have died in the Ukraine. Russian or Ukrainian, they all had mothers. How did they feel about it? Was it something for their sons to die for? Or should talking have been the first step?
Unfortunately, John, wars make BIG profits for those who start them. They don’t care about human life. All they care about is power and money. There is no thought or emotion towards those who are actually involved in war zones. Perhaps a day shall come when man outs those whose primary goal is to conquer and control so that when differences arise, talk among those who are odds with one another, can take place and peaceful resolutions can take place. I may be a dreamer yet …. perhaps?
As John Lennon so rightly said, “War is over…….if you want it”.
These photos are so sad and so typical of the war in the east. They are an amazing collection, and you wonder what the purpose of them being taken was. I just think thank goodness someone did! As for the music, I thought you had posted all the answers, in fact I was sure you did.
Thank you for your help with the whereabouts of the quizzes. I think that I will just let it go, and then one day, unleash Quiz 3 on an unsuspecting readership.
The photographs will have been taken by official Soviet newspaper and magazine photographers. The Soviets were not slow to make propaganda from such sources, and, to be honest, places to take such photographs were not in short supply. In Belarus, around 2,000 villages were totally annihilated, and the Ukraine suffered even worse, given the racial theories the Nazis had, and the way the SS and the majority of Wehrmacht soldiers were quite prepared to behave.
There is little that can be said to adequately reflect my feelings about how the Russians were treated back then. I also repeat your comment about it not being Putin that we refer to. I remember in seeing Yevtushenko reading his poems in Melbourne in 1967 and I have given away about ten copies of the booklet that was published by Sun Books. And I haven’t kept a copy for myself. But I do know that the translation in the Australian edition of Babi Yar is brilliant. The first line, in the Aust Ed was “Over Babi Yar there are no memorials”. I wish I could find that translation again.
Thank you for the photographs John. They brought serious tears to this old man’s eyes. And a lump in his throat.
And I thought all Australians were tough as old boots and ate ground up concrete as a dessert! Mind you, those photographs were very moving, especially the last four. Children somehow get to us, no matter what mindset we begin at.
I found this for Yevgeniy Yevtushenko..
(1962 translation) and, slightly different,
An English teacher who later became a judge did some Yevtushenko with us in 1965. It was a poem that started
“Telling lies to the young is wrong”, but all the translations started with “Lying to the….” which I didn’t like quite as much.
“Over Babi Yar
there are no memorials.
The steep hillside like a rough inscription.
I am frightened.
Today I am as old as the Jewish race.”
– The opening lines of “Babi Yar” by Yevgeny Yevtushenko, translated to English by Robin Milner-Gulland and Peter Levi, S.J. 1962.
And here are the addresses, or at least, what they turned to…
(20+) National Library of Israel – Posts | Facebook
If nothing happens when you click on them, try right clicking and then left click on (Open hyperlink”
Finally, here is the URL address again
Click to access 1.4.pdf
Thank you for sharing history!… perhaps if we showed more photos of the suffering of the people during conflicts, there would be less of a trend to using conflict to settle issues.. believe the conflict in the Ukraine is a example.. in the past Putin would have been able to hide the suffering… “The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom” ( Isaac Asimov)… 🙂
Until we meet again..
May your troubles be less
Your blessings be more
And nothing but happiness
Come through your door
I fully agree with you. It is all too easy to get swept up in the euphoria of a nation’s wounded pride, and it is just as easy to pull a trigger that kills somebody hundreds of yards away. Nobody ever thinks of the family of the man they have just shot or how it will affect the place where he lives when they have no doctor or nobody to run the generators at the local factory.
Thank you, too, for your quotation from Isaac Asimov. It’s something that should be written large on the wall of every secondary school in the land.
Pingback: Photographs of the Eastern Front in World War Two (5) | John Knifton