Extraordinary ‘never-before-seen’ photos taken by German soldier during Warsaw Uprising found in online auction
A unique series of photographs showing Warsaw during the Uprising in a way that has never been seen before has been acquired by the Warsaw Rising Museum.
The photographs taken between 2 and 13 September 1944 capture German soldiers in Warsaw as they really were and not in line with Nazi propaganda guidelines.
The 59 black and white photographs were not taken by German photoreporters from a propaganda company but by a regular soldier, although which unit he served with and what specifically he was doing in Warsaw remains a mystery.
The photos offer many images of the conflict that will be priceless to historians. They include the Royal Castle in the Old Town at the moment immediately after the insurgents and local population had left the area and before the main clock tower had been demolished.
There are also priceless shots of the Saski and Brühl palaces on what is now Piłsudski Square, and St. John’s cathedral before it was demolished.
Jan Ołdakowski, the director of the Warsaw Rising Museum said: “These photos were taken from a private perspective, which is why they are so valuable.
“You can see that the recommendations on how to photograph German soldiers did not apply to them, so they are often sloppy, dirty and sitting in postures that would not please their bosses.”
Photography was very popular among German soldiers during World War Two, but they were under strict instructions about what and who they could photograph.
Ołdawski said. “A German soldier could not show in his photos another German soldier who had his uniform unbuttoned, or who was tired. The Germans made sure that the image of their soldiers was that of a victorious, well-uniformed, decent army.”
Employees of the Warsaw Rising Museum came across the collection of photographs when they were offered for sale on the internet.
The museum constantly monitors auction sites in search for archival photographs and documents from the Uprising.
The head of the Iconography and Photography Department, Joanna Jastrzębska-Woźniak, immediately contacted the seller, an antiquarian bookseller in the Czech Republic.
Ołdakowski said: “He agreed to withdraw the photographs from the auction, on on condition: that we pay him by handing over the money [..] within 48 hours.”
With support from the museum’s sponsor PGE Polska Grupa Energetyczna, the PLN 10,500 was raised and a museum employee sped towards Pilzen in the Czech Republic to finalise the deal.
The seller said he did know any more details about the origins of the collection . He only said that the collection was found in Karlovy Vary.
The photographs show German positions in various parts of Warsaw, including Targówek, Praga, the Old Town, Śródmieście, Wola and Ochota.
German soldiers are seen manning fire positions in buildings and crossing streets next to barricades. Columns of smoke are visible billowing above the city centre. One shows what appears to be a large explosion in the city centre.
Several photos show the Germans preparing to defend themselves against the Red Army approaching the right bank of the Vistula. The Wehrmacht are shown manning artillery positions in the gardens of the Royal Castle, on the Gdansk Bridge and on 11 Listopada Street.
Other photos show senior officers of a Bahnschutz railway security unit setting fire to vast stacks of bottle crates. Many more photos show Bahnschutz officers inspecting damage to railway tracks.
The series closes with photographs of civilians from Ochota being expelled from the city and shots of the famous fence next to the Dulag 121 transit camp in Pruszków festooned with notes and postcards of people looking for their loved ones.
It is not known who took the photographs, although the photographer captured his shadow in one of them. He may have been travelling in a black civilian car, which is also in the photographs.
Ryszard Mączewski, an expert from the Warsaw Rising Museum said: “It could have been a soldier of the 302nd Radio Battalion, because the weapons used by soldiers from that unit are visible in the photographs.
“However, it could also have been someone connected with the Bahnschutz, as officers of German railways can be seen in the photographs."
The photographs will go on display at the Warsaw Rising Museum from 1 August 2022.
To see more of the incredible photographs click HERE.