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The Germans Wore Grey, You Wore Blue
October 7, 2010 6:58 AM   Subscribe

Color Photos of the Russian Front Even though color photography was no longer entirely a novelty by the time of the Second World War, it is still uncommon and intriguing to see color photos from the war. Even moreso in this case, as the pictures in this EnglishRussia.com post are mainly of the German army fighting in Russia. The images include scenes of actual combat as well as behind the lines, though there was only one I noticed that featured a wounded soldier. There's even a picture of some GIs near the end of the series.
posted by briank (30 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
That shot of a guy whose arm has been blown off was pretty nuts. These are some really great photos. I'm also surprised by how large some of the cannons were.
posted by josher71 at 7:04 AM on October 7, 2010


I don't think those are all from the Eastern front, or at least I wasn't aware of any American amphibious landings in the East (#40) or that the Russians used English sinage on their buildings after the Americans landed (#44).
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:16 AM on October 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Man, my grandfather fought (and was wounded) on the Russian front in 19mumblemumble around the age that I was flunking out of college and spending my free time with daytime talk shows and IRC. Not that I wish I was in his place at that age by far -- killing Nazis is a noble pursuit, but not for this overly-sensitive quasi-pacifist -- but I still find it amazing what a man can experience before his brain is even fully formed.

I'm also surprised by how large some of the cannons were.

Always love a chance to bring out my favorite Cryptonomicon quote:
Ask a Russian engineer to design you a shoe, and he'll give you something that looks like the box the shoe came in. Ask him to design something that will slaughter Germans, and he turns into Thomas fucking Edison.
posted by griphus at 7:18 AM on October 7, 2010 [8 favorites]


Careful when you get to the bottom of the page, there are some vaguely NSFW ads/images there.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 7:24 AM on October 7, 2010


That shot of a guy whose arm has been blown off was pretty nuts.

On the other hand, most of the images are pretty sanitized - you would think that the worst thing that could happen to you would be to get a sooty from your trench mortar.

Most of the photographs seem to be from Signal magazine, the Nazi propaganda publication.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:41 AM on October 7, 2010


Nice sunglasses!
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 7:50 AM on October 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


It would be nice if there were more movies/books/media pieces in US popular culture that tell the story of WWII from the Russian side. Without them, the US and UK wouldn't have been able to punch through Western Europe towards Berlin.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:51 AM on October 7, 2010


It would be nice if there were more movies/books/media pieces in US popular culture that tell the story of WWII from the Russian side.

It would, but it would destroy the double-fantasy that America Won The War Single-handedly and Commies Are Evil.

(Oh, and sorry if there's anything NSFWish at that link, I didn't see anything objectionable, but I am using AdBlock, and EnglishRussia does have that reputation)
posted by briank at 8:00 AM on October 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


There's a reason whey there aren't a whole lot of photos from the Russian side. Nearly any Russian capable of wielding a camera was busy wielding a gun instead.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:05 AM on October 7, 2010


There's a reason whey there aren't a whole lot of photos from the Russian side. Nearly any Russian capable of wielding a camera was busy wielding a gun instead.

Only after October 9, 1942 when Stalin began to dismantle the commisariat and abolished political officers.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:20 AM on October 7, 2010


It would be nice if there were more movies/books/media pieces in US popular culture that tell the story of WWII from the Russian side. Without them, the US and UK wouldn't have been able to punch through Western Europe towards Berlin.

IANAHistorian, but Antony Beevor's Stalingrad and Berlin are pretty great reads detailing Russia's efforts, though there has been some controversy. While Russia paid a huge price and were absolutely essential in ending the European war, the Western Allies made it to Berlin in spite of the Russians, much to the dismay of both Stalin and the Germans, who desperately wanted to surrender to the UK/US, rather than the Reds.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:29 AM on October 7, 2010


Strange how everything except the weapons and the uniforms looks like 19th century or early 20th century setting.
posted by Harry at 9:04 AM on October 7, 2010


i believe color photography was still expensive during the war and for years after, and i wonder if color film and processing involved resources that were diverted for war--back in the day when, like, resources were diverted for war.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 9:06 AM on October 7, 2010


Remember when nearly all photos were made with film? These are just beautiful. Grainy, real, and deliciously devoid of color-correction. Very nice.
posted by heyho at 9:12 AM on October 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Around the time the Soviet Union was in its landing spiral I was getting a catalog of Russian shit in the mail - matroyshkas, central Asian rugs with AK47s on them, surplus optics, all sorts of fun stuff. I remember them having an English translation of a leading Russian history of the "Great Patriotic War" and have regretted for years not buying it.
posted by jtron at 10:34 AM on October 7, 2010


and what's wrong with color correction? ;o;
posted by jtron at 10:35 AM on October 7, 2010


Found this in the Great Patriotic War link above: Russian newsreels about WWII
posted by jtron at 10:54 AM on October 7, 2010


It would, but it would destroy the double-fantasy that America Won The War Single-handedly and Commies Are Evil.

I just pictured FDR and Stalin doing this and you owe me a new libido.
posted by griphus at 10:59 AM on October 7, 2010


You think color correction was invented with digital cameras?

Great pics, though.
posted by entropicamericana at 11:26 AM on October 7, 2010


> and what's wrong with color correction?

There's nothing inherently wrong with color-correction, but I find it aesthetically pleasing when I notice a lack of it in old photos. Sort of like when you watch films from the 70s and earlier and notice that they're not cram-packed with background/theme music the way most films seem to be today.

In my opinion, sometimes less manipulation just tells a better story.

tl;dr: I am old; therefore, I am nostalgic.
posted by heyho at 11:33 AM on October 7, 2010


> In my opinion, sometimes less manipulation just tells a better story.

On the other hand (and I'm neither for or against manipulation), sometimes seeing old photos that have been corrected or tweaked to look newer can help reduce the illusion that the past is somehow different or quaint. People and situations were pretty much like they are now, even with all the changes.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:38 AM on October 7, 2010


entropicamericana: No. I do think those photos are beautiful, though. That wasn't a list of all things I know and think; it was a short list of what I liked about those particular photos. (good grief)
posted by heyho at 11:39 AM on October 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


It would be nice if there were more movies/books/media pieces in US popular culture that tell the story of WWII from the Russian side. Without them, the US and UK wouldn't have been able to punch through Western Europe towards Berlin.

The Western Allies didn't make it to Berlin, which is why Berlin was in the Soviet zone of occupied Germany, which later became East Germany. The vast majority of combat fatalities in Europe were on the Eastern Front.

The Soviet Union won the war in Europe. The Soviets had been fighting the Germans for three years before the Allies invaded Normandy in June 1944. The Allies D-Day force was 39 divisions. Later in June the Soviets launched a massive offensive with 1,245,000 men, 14 combined-army armies, one tank army, and 124 divisions. The diversionary attack before this offensive--41 divisions, 800 tanks--was larger than the D-Day offensive.

Germany had 58 divisions in France, Belgium and Holland, and 239 divisions on the Eastern Front. (The Afrika Korps had two German divisions and eight Italian divisions. The Germans had 26 divisions in Italy after the Allies invaded in September 1943.)

In September 1944--three months after D-Day--Germany had 700,000 soliders on the Western Front and 4.3 million on the Eastern Front. Germany lost 4,000,000 men on the Eastern Front, 72% of their total losses of 5,533,000.
posted by kirkaracha at 1:21 PM on October 7, 2010 [8 favorites]


The Soviet Union won the war in Europe.

I don't mean this to denigrate their heroism or sacrifice at all, but I rather doubt that the USSR could have won the war without the utterly humongous material support they were getting from the US. Absolutely the Red Army was the point of the spear, but it was not a wholly Soviet spear.

It really was a war won by the Allied Powers, where none of them could have won on their own.

Likewise, the ability of the Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe to hold on for so long against the combined power of the US, UK, and USSR is just staggering.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:17 PM on October 7, 2010


I don't mean this to denigrate their heroism or sacrifice at all, but I rather doubt that the USSR could have won the war without the utterly humongous material support they were getting from the US.

A few choice quotes from the Lend-Lease Wikipedia page:

"Lend-Lease was a critical factor in the eventual success of the Allies in World War II, particularly in the early years when the United States was not directly involved and the entire burden of the fighting fell on other nations, notably those of the Commonwealth and, after June 1941, the Soviet Union.

. . .

The USSR was highly dependent on rail transportation, but the war practically shut down rail equipment production: only about 92 locomotives were produced. 2,000 locomotives and 11,000 railcars were supplied under Lend-Lease. Likewise, the Soviet air force received 18,700 aircraft, which amounted to about 14% of Soviet aircraft production (19% for military aircraft).

Although most Red Army tank units were equipped with Soviet-built tanks, their logistical support was provided by hundreds of thousands of U.S.-made trucks. Indeed by 1945 nearly two-thirds of the truck strength of the Red Army was U.S.-built."
posted by menschlich at 7:23 PM on October 7, 2010


Again, I can't recommend Hardcore History's 4-part Ghosts of the Ostfront podcast series enough.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:46 PM on October 7, 2010


Interesting photos. Though the book has been criticized in some circles, I found The Forgotten Solder by Guy Sajer to be a devastating account of the war on the Eastern Front as told by a soldier in the German army.
posted by gudrun at 10:11 PM on October 7, 2010


I found The Forgotten Solder by Guy Sajer to be a devastating account of the war on the Eastern Front as told by a soldier in the German army.

I totally know you meant SOLDIER, but when I first read SOLDER I had the image of a devestating account of pre-glastnost electronics in the Eastern Block as told by a Czech underground rocker.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:10 AM on October 8, 2010


I rather doubt that the USSR could have won the war without the utterly humongous material support they were getting from the US.

Sure, but there's a big difference between saying the USSR won with American trucks and trains and saying the Soviets were a distraction while the US et al won the war.

The scale and scope of the Eastern Front was off the charts compared to the Western Front. It's much, much farther from Stalingrad to Berlin than it was from Normandy.
posted by kirkaracha at 8:30 AM on October 8, 2010


The scale and scope of the Eastern Front was off the charts compared to the Western Front. It's much, much farther from Stalingrad to Berlin than it was from Normandy.

Of course Stalingrad to Berlin was a journey over almost entirely occupied lands, while Normandy to Berlin is mostly over the Fatherland himself. Of course if you are just talking raw distance covered, shouldn't you also add in the stretches slogged out in North Africa and Italy into the equasion for the Western Allies, not to mention bonus points for simultaneously holding back the Japanese advance and having to complete an amphibious assault just to launch the race to Berlin (AND even more amphibious assaults in the North African and Italian campaigns and Pacific theatre)?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:13 AM on October 8, 2010


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