|German soldiers literally on the way to Stalingrad got a good laugh out of this.|
"Anyone who has ever looked into the glazed eyes of a soldier dying on the battlefield will think hard before starting a war." Otto von Bismarck
These are some of the absolutely worst pictures from World War II.
They serve a purpose. "War," William Tecumseh Sherman said, "is Hell." It can also be as cold as that.
If you ignore the carnage and the blood and the pain and the suffering of war, and only portray heroic images and fancy, clean Generals doing derring deeds in immaculate uniforms, what do you get?
So, there is a point to this collection. People should under the consequences of conflict, but death is never pretty.
I want to emphasize that this page is not for everyone. It shows the true barbarity of hate and savagery. If you don't think it could ever happen again, and even worse, you are living in a dream world. Beheadings exactly of the type shown on this page are happening today in certain parts of the world. Do you see pictures like these in the news? Probably not, because it is more likely you are shown antiseptic pictures of bombers and guys standing proudly with guns - but maybe you should. You cannot possibly understand anything about this or any other war without seeing the personal destruction that it causes.
|March 1944. A child in the Ozarichy hostage holding camp tries to wake up his mother. She will never wake up.|
The Holocaust now has its own page, so there is only a sprinkling of pictures from it on here - most of the pictures there are as bad or far worse than any on this page, but that is a whole other universe of savagery. We could do this entire page solely with Holocaust pictures - but then it would be called "Holocaust," and that page is elsewhere. These are primarily battlefield/occupied territory incidents.
Some of the facts in the captions may be incorrect and some of the pictures may be fakes. The best sources are used, but there have been many post-war films, "re-creations" and outright propaganda that are manufactured to look authentic and thus are extremely hard to spot. These fakes sometimes find their way into the most reputable sources, including the German National Archives that serves as an official repository. If anyone can provide a better ID for any image, post a comment. Any likely fakes will be removed, but there must be some validation of that.
|Feelings were hard in the South Pacific.|
Everyone is tired of keyboard heroes who shout the loudest about how war is needed to solve this problem or that in the world. We're also tired of people shouting about how offended they are at real things as shown on here. So, don't bother commenting that you're offended for some reason or another, nobody cares. Anyone who thinks that war is an answer should be required to view this page and others like it and then tell us how necessary war is. The reality of war will not change. This is real war that is shown here, not tidy pictures of heroes.
|"Hitler at the Odeonsplatz, 1914."|
The above photo is widely considered to be a fake. What is of interest here is that, if it is a fake (and if so, it is very good), it was manufactured or procured by Hitler's personal photographer Heinrich Hoffman in the early 1930s. Nobody can prove it to be a fake, it is that good - but the odds of a random (extremely talented) photographer just happening to capture Hitler at the front of a crowd celebrating the announcement of World War I, and then Hoffman just stumbling upon it two decades later just when it would come in handy, and all with crystal clarity... well, let's just say it's about as likely as being struck by lightning. So we are dealing with fakes prepared both after the events in question - and during them. There are other more obvious fakes, but hopefully I've made my point.
In summary, the intent of this page is to convey the reality of war itself, which is horrible, and not the special case of the Holocaust, which is like the Twilight Zone of brutality. A sanitized picture of war is not about war at all - there is nothing sanitary about war. And there are a couple of Holocaust pictures on here just as a reminder of that horror - because war is horror.
This also is not a "Tsk, Tsk, bad, bad Germans" page, though of course they did more than their share of evil acts. There were ghoulish acts performed by all the combatants during World War II. Bombing cities with 2000-bomber raids, cities that were defenseless and full of women and children, and causing firestorms - that's pretty ghoulish. But this particular page is about personal, in-your-face ghoulishness. Bomber raids were impersonal, push-a-button killing, and this page is intended to get real personal.
Hey, there's a war on!
|Street scene, Breslau, 1945.|
But the Germans were pretty much the champs in terms of systematic killings during World War II, no question about it. Everybody else in comparison... rank amateurs.
There are a couple of points to bear in mind when viewing these photos. First, things often are not what they appear. There may be dead people and guys with guns standing over them - but that does not mean that they murdered anyone. Somebody else may have done the deed, and the guys in the picture who appear to be forcing others to dig the graves in fact may be blameless (or not). Pictures have intrinsic rules and create their own reality that may not reflect actual events. There isn't any "explanation" or "mitigating factor" in a photograph.
The reality is that there was ghastly brutality on both sides, and I am subtle about it, but the observant will notice that some of the shots below were of Allied actions. Sure, I can hear the angry voices justifying this country's or that country's brutal reign of terror. "That's all just part of war." "Absolutely necessary." "It actually saved a lot of lives in other ways." "Well, they weren't supposed to do that, it was illegal, but they did it without our knowing it." "You have to fight fire with fire." "They did it first." "This is nothing compared to what they did." "It shortened the war!" "It was necessary in order to win and stop their crimes." Yes, and much more like that.
The response? Precisely. That's what war is.
♪♫ "Whatever gets you through the night, it's all right, it's all right." - John Lennon ♫♪The truth is that the reality was 10x worse than these photos make it look. The pictures don't capture the stink of burning corpses - or the stench of still living ones melting away from starvation. They don't include the wailing of motherless children crawling over their dead mother's bodies. They can't quite convey the reality of the rats and vultures approaching your fallen comrade's body as you, with a broken leg and shattered arm, have bigger problems to worry about - such as that they'll get you next.
Oh, and this is directed at you, the one that thinks that war is glorious and winning battles is beautiful and conquering territory is lovely.
All right, you've had your chance to move on. This is a page of pure evil. Here goes.
The above picture usually has the caption "Hostage execution in Pancevo, 1941." That may well be precisely what it is. However, what was actually going on there has been called into dispute by at least one source. It undoubtedly shows an execution by German troops (ordinary Wehrmacht) in April 1941 in the town of Panchevo in the Vojvodina region. Perhaps this was a merciless, unjustified slaughter of innocent civilians.
However it is claimed elsewhere that this in fact was an execution of 18 Yugoslav army fighters who, disguised as civilians, had been involved in shootings of German soldiers. The claim is that they were sentenced to death by a military court and legally executed. It is contended that, as grim as it was, this execution was entirely in accord with internationally-sanctioned military law practiced by all sides, such as the Americans who shot Operation Greif spies out of hand, within days of capture, during the Battle of the Bulge.
I don't know. I wasn't there (honest!). I put the explanations there for your consideration. Much in this field becomes a question of how much you trust the sources (apparently Soviet in this case). This may strike you as quibbling over nothing, but it is important to some folks because the standard line is that ordinary Wehrmacht troops did not engage in genocide as appears to be the case here. I have my doubts about that, too, but an open mind. There is so much other damning evidence that one photo doesn't make much difference, but it provides a window into hidden battles that continue to this day. There are people who want the truth out, and others who like to, shall we say, tailor it in a certain direction. And they live on both sides of the aisle.
Sometimes pictures lie. Sometimes they tell a deeper truth than you might expect. You decide.
|Mussolini and his mistress, Dongo, Italy, April 29, 1945|
|"Hey, look over there for me, would you?"|
|This baby was left without a mother, somewhere back in the USSR.|
|This American just wanted a drink of water, France, June 1944. The fountain was booby-trapped. His thirst is gone.|
|Dead civilians, Volokolamsk, Russia. Their bodies? Frozen solid. Impossible to bury them until the spring thaw (the "rasputitsa") anyway. Besides, it sets an example for others. So, just leave them. They aren't going anywhere.|
|A notorious concentration camp guard. What she did was far worse.|
|Dead Russians soldier, stood up by the Finns as a warning during the 1939/40 Winter War. The Soviets won, but they left a lot of guys behind.|
|Dead soldier used as a signpost. Notice how his boots are missing? Warm boots were very prized during the Russian winters. This guy didn't need them any longer. Were they taken by the enemy or... his friends. Hey, warm is warm.|
|Dead Waffen-SS on the road to Moscow. The middle of nowhere, probably buried right there without any markings, and there they stay.|
|The execution of the underground fighter Vladimir Vinogradov, who killed a German soldier in Vitebsk. Plate inscription in German and Russian: "Vladimir Vinogradov killed German soldier 9/23/41 in Vitebsk ."|
|Outside Moscow, December 1941. The birds have to act fast, the corpses will freeze solid within hours. Some things can't be staged, vultures and crows is one of them.|
|All right, we have a pictures of a teenage boy standing beside some dead bodies. Not so bad, right? Well, they are his murdered family. He's next. Zboriv, Ukraine, 5th of July 1941.|
|Dead soldier in the road. When tank after tank runs over you - that's how you look.|
|An Einsatzgruppe going about its normal business. It appears the condemned are being made to face the wall, or perhaps that is just a show of defiance. Just another day at the office. Is that a woman third from the left?|
|Dead civilians in Kharkov. Partisans? Perhaps. Maybe the local German commander just wanted their houses.|
|Japanese Bomb hits the flight deck of USS Enterprise, costing the photographer of this picture his life. August 24, 1942. Incidentally, if you scroll down quickly as you view this, it appears to move as an optical illusion.|
|Remains left on Guadalcanal, 1951. Eight years later!|
|Chinese Boy Beheaded - his only crime was being a member of a household suspected by the Japanese of aiding Chinese guerillas (the Japanese called them "Bandits"). He appears to be praying. Ca. 1938. Corbis photo.|
|Oradour sur Glane massacre, France, 1944.|
|This is a famous photo, executions in Poland.|
|American GIs in the South Pacific.|
|Another German summary execution. They probably made him dig the hole. No shirt, note the snow on the ground, they probably had him working so hard he didn't need it anyway.|
|Just to hammer home that the previous photograph was not an isolated incident|
|And a third.|
|The fate of millions of men during the war, this one happened to be in the Ukraine 1943. Not wise to be standing up straight when there are snipers around. He learned his lesson. This is a famous shot that is not a recent fabrication.|
|Russia 1943. Helmets were good for pistol shots, but rifle bullets were a whole other deal.|
|Brandenburg Gate 1945. RAD Unteroffizier.|
|I know, this isn't horrific. But it is human, and we can relate. A Russian woman's reaction to losing her home in 1942. Who knows what - or who - was inside.|
|This fine Soviet soldier worked straight through dinner - for 70 years. The PPsh sub machine gun is a bit rusty, though, won't pass inspection like that.|
|This is one creepy picture. Hitler at Christmas|