Saturday, November 7, 2015

German Trophy Photos

German trophy photos worldwartwo.filminspector.com

One of the weirdest trends of World War II was German trophy photos. I'm not talking about bowling trophies, either.

German trophy photos worldwartwo.filminspector.com

There was something about German military culture that compelled the propaganda photographers attached to units to have the troops pose in a sort of triumphant way in front of burning Soviet buildings and the like.

German trophy photos worldwartwo.filminspector.com
German mountain troops survey the dead crew of a smoked T-34. The engagement took place new Panteleyev Balka in the Ukraine on May 27 1942.

A quick caveat: I have tried to verify the authenticity of these photos, but there are many "re-creations" and outright fakes sometimes made for propaganda purposes by very sophisticated operations.

German trophy photos worldwartwo.filminspector.com


Anyone spotting a fake on this site should leave a comment below and I'll delete it if there is a real possibility the photo isn't genuine.

German trophy photos worldwartwo.filminspector.com
I think that is a MG 42 he's holding.

The Germans often would pose in front of burning buildings or in front of dead bodies they had just killed, sometimes rather self-consciously.

German trophy photos worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Panzergrenadiers posing in front of a T-34-85, which places this in 1944 or '45. The fellow with the panzerfaust will get an arm patch for that, perhaps the other guy as well. They don't look too excited, they know they might not live long enough to wear the patch.

These pictures don't just happen. They are carefully posed and arranged by the propaganda ministry photographer. There was a practical reason to take them, too: awards and promotions were based upon destroying tanks and other achievements. The Tank Destruction Badge (Sonderabzeichen für das Niederkämpfen von Panzerkampfwagen durch Einzelkämpfer) was highly prized. It wasn't just the Germans - the Soviets were notorious for "marking" the tanks they had destroyed so nobody else stole the credit for their work. Everybody wanted proper credit.

German trophy photos worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"We're number eins!"

From the looks of it, this included senior officers as well.

German trophy photos worldwartwo.filminspector.com
German killing squad and Polish farmers murdered in occupied Poland, 1943.

... even Field Marshals.

Trophy pictures worldwartwo.filminspector.com Field Marshal Ewald von Kleist


It was kind of a "Look, ma, see what I did!" trend that is completely inexplicable. Yet, it happened over and over.

German trophy photos worldwartwo.filminspector.com

It is understandable that soldiers would be happy to pose for propaganda shots.

German trophy photos worldwartwo.filminspector.com

However, at times it goes completely off the rails - as when they pose like elephant hunters, beaming as they stand over (or under) their victims. It is a mindset completely alien to modern times, perhaps more appropriate to medieval days.

German trophy photos worldwartwo.filminspector.com

One also has to wonder at how gleeful everyone looks. It's one thing to pose for a photo, but to find it positively hilarious to stand in front of someone that you just hanged or shot is simply bizarre.

German trophy photos worldwartwo.filminspector.com Russia

From a military sense, burning down isolated farmhouses has a certain logic to it. You deny the enemy a place to sleep and set up camp. It's not really the way to endear yourself to the locals who see you coming their way, but nobody really cared about that stuff.

German trophy photos worldwartwo.filminspector.com Russia


There are reports that Wehrmacht soldiers used these photos to show their comrades in new units what they had done, sort of like calling cards. "Here are my credentials, my boys and I went down there and burned down this barn. I'm baaaaaaad."

German trophy photos worldwartwo.filminspector.com Bloody Wednesday Olkusz
Bloody Wednesday at Olkusz, Poland, 31 July 1940.

There are plenty of photos of German soldiers (SS or otherwise) in the act of killing people. However, when they are self-consciously cracking broad smiles or even apparently making fun of a corpse, that takes it to a whole other realm.

German trophy photos worldwartwo.filminspector.com

If there is one thing about reviewing photos of the period that has baffled me, that is it. Posing with someone you just killed - why?

Oh, and it wasn't just the Germans.

Trophy photos worldwartwo.filminspector.com
A Japanese soldier holding the severed head of a Chinese man, and the samurai sword he presumably cut it off with. Shanghai, August 28, 1937.

Trophy photos worldwartwo.filminspector.com


All right, I think I've made my point. However, I actually have one more point to make - and you're probably not going to like it. But this blog is about reality, not myth or legends.

It wasn't just the Axis soldiers who did this.

German trophy photos worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The Battle of Leyte with killed Japanese soldiers.

German trophy photos worldwartwo.filminspector.com

Trophy photos worldwartwo.filminspector.com
This sniper was unusually proud of his kill.

German trophy photos worldwartwo.filminspector.com


And it wasn't just men.

German trophy photos worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Oh... the best part about this photo is that she is in the process of writing a thank you note... for the skull.

War is Hell.


2015

4 comments:

  1. what about American soldiers sending home japanese skulls as gifts for their friends and girls which happened alot, or American soldiers today posing with fallen enemies, as trophies! or abu graib!

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  2. At the time the Japanese were not acting in a civilized manner. Just as German behavior when attacking the Soviet Union was criminal, it paved the way for Soviet Troops to behave the way they did when they finally beat back the German menace. In that context, it almost seems that US soldiers exhibited extremely civil behavior toward the Japanese. There was no excuse for the need to see their friends dying while beating back the Japanese. The US had done them no harm and should not have been forced to send so many young men to die defeating the Japanese. This does not excuse any uncivil behavior by US troops. But it does explain the few incidents.

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  3. I pomyśleć ,że ci zwyrodnialcy w większości doczekali kresu swych dni w dostatku i spokoju. Czy ktokolwiek z nich maił choćby cień wyrzutów sumienia , czy przed śmiercią miał lub miała obraz zamordowanych , zamęczonych niewinnych ludzi ? Nie ma sprawiedliwosci na tym swiecie!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Myślę, że masz rację - nie ma prawdziwej sprawiedliwości. Dziękuję za komentarz.

      Delete