Posted by: Rob | June 7, 2009

In Full Colour – Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany

During my commute home the other night, the talking heads on Fox were discussing someone named Hugo Jaeger and some colour photographs he had taken in Nazi Germany.  Apparently, many here-to-fore unreleased images were now to be published by Life Magazine.

I’ve always had an interest in history, with World War II a primary focal point.  I was intrigued by the discussion I heard, especially the events around the preservation of the photo transparencies at the end of the war and how they wound up in the possession of Life Magazine.  I resolved to look the story up and view the photos firsthand.

The photo release story led me to this page on Life Magazine’s site.

According to the photo captions,

Hugo Jaeger, one of Hitler’s personal photographers, in 1970. Jaeger’s story — and the story of how LIFE came to own his photographs of Hitler — is nothing short of astonishing. In 1945, when the Allies were making their final push toward Munich, Jaeger found himself face to face with six American soldiers in a small town west of the city. During a search of the house where Jaeger was staying, the Americans found a leather suitcase in which Jaeger had hidden thousands of color photo transparencies. He knew he would be arrested (or worse) if the Americans discovered his film and his close connection to Hitler. He could never have imagined what happened next.

The American soldiers threw open the suitcase that held the Hitler images. Inside, they found a bottle of cognac that Jaeger had placed atop the transparencies. Elated, the soldiers proceeded to share the bottle with Jaeger and the owner of the house. The suitcase was forgotten.

After the Americans left, Jaeger packed the transparencies into 12 glass jars and buried them on the outskirts of town. In the years following the war, Jaeger occasionally returned to his multiple caches, digging them up, repacking, and reburying them. He finally retrieved the collection for good in 1955 — 2,000 transparencies, all of them, amazingly, still in good shape — stored them in a bank vault, and in 1965 sold them to LIFE. To date, only a fraction of the Jaeger collection has been published.

Historical photos in black and white tend, at least to me, to create a sense of “unreality” about the subject matter.  Conversely, I love artistic black and white photos, both of people and places.  However, the addition of colour adds a tangible sense of “reality” to the people, places and, by extension, the events of those times.

Here’s a sample*, if you’re interested.

* Because wordpress does not allow java script, I am unable to embed the sample photo directly.

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Responses

  1. The man was a monster. It’s good there are records and archives, even photographs, lest we forget the face of real evil.

  2. it is odd to see these in color. but more disturbing, at least for me? a photo buried in there of Adolf Hitler smiling. i don’t think i’ve ever seen a photo of him with a smile. Weird…

  3. Have you read The Rise And Fall Of The Third Reich by William Shirer? Fantastic.

  4. I agree with Daisy Fae, the picture of him smiling is spooky.

  5. He had good intentions. But some of u nabs dont want to see through the lines and see that the DAMN americans and their conspiracies are behind it all.

    • From this perspective, I don’t know that anyone can really conclude that “he had good intentions”. All we can judge from now is the evidence of events that occurred under his leadership. I don’t believe that taking the land and resources of others by force is evidence of “good intentions”. I don’t believe that enslavement, imprisonment and/or termination of those you perceive as your society’s undesirables is evidence of “good intentions”.

      Granted, there are no good solutions or outcomes from any of the wars that Europeans have waged with each other over the centuries and, certainly, the reparations burden imposed on Germany after WWI contributed to the rise of Hitler and Nazis and enabled them to do what they did. Was what they did justifiable and justified? I would say no.

      American hegemony is a subject much broader than can be addressed here.


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