Poland At War
December 8, 2004 2:18 PM   Subscribe

Poland at War - Photographs of Nazi-occupied Poland taken between 1939 and 1945
posted by cmonkey (22 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Thanks...I'd forgotten Poland.
posted by uosuaq at 2:41 PM on December 8, 2004

My dad was there! I'll see if he recognizes any pictures.
posted by crazy finger at 3:20 PM on December 8, 2004

you forgot poland? you forgot poland! i'd bet the warsaw resistance fighters number pretty close the the number of polish troops in iraq. talk about a coalition of the willing...
posted by mdpc98 at 3:28 PM on December 8, 2004

mdpc98 - do you mean the Warsaw insurgents?
posted by crazy finger at 3:29 PM on December 8, 2004

Excellent post, thanks!
posted by dhoyt at 3:40 PM on December 8, 2004

This site was difficult for me to explore, but I really appreciate the post. I can't shake the notion that shortly after the photographs were taken, the majority of the photos' subjects died violent, terrifying deaths. My relatives lived in Poland/Galicia, and disappeared during the war years. We never found out what happened to them. Looking at the photos of all these old ghosts, I couldn't help but wonder, "Maybe that's my great-great aunt, or cousin, or..." Sad. :(
posted by miss kitten at 4:53 PM on December 8, 2004

There's a very bizarre "Easter egg" in this collection.

Go to the first page of thumbnails and click on the thumbnail in the upper right-hand corner ("Polish Jews - 1939.jpg").

At least at the moment, that links to an obscene satirical cartoon of Hitler (caption translates as "What we once have, we hold on to").
posted by Creosote at 5:16 PM on December 8, 2004

These are heartwrenching. Good find, thanks for sharing.

Creosote: Wow, nice catch!
posted by dejah420 at 6:45 PM on December 8, 2004

posted by philfromhavelock at 8:03 PM on December 8, 2004

yes--insurgents. pardon my oversight; it's just... they hate freedom
posted by mdpc98 at 8:12 PM on December 8, 2004

mdpc98 - do you mean the Warsaw insurgents?

Yes! USA = Nazis & Ba'athists = Oppressed Jews
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 8:48 PM on December 8, 2004

The Pianist, 2003 movie by Roman Polanski. Won best Director, and it should have won best film. Roman was in Warsaw as a child and witnessed first hand, we are fortunate he brought it to the screen. It is the most authentic WWII movie I have ever seen, plus one of the best adventure movies, and it's all true. The pictures shown here could easily be mistaken for b&w outakes from the movie, in fact the movie shows Nazi troops in the Warsaw Ghetto taking pictures from moving vehicles (which most of these are).
posted by stbalbach at 8:52 PM on December 8, 2004

The Pianist was amazing. I think it gets the feeling of hiding in fear across very well. Still, I find myself relieved but also disappointed that I could never completely comprehend the way that it feels to hide in a warzone or to live during with war all around you.

Although my father hasn't watched the Pianist, he has seen scenery shots of the ruins of Warsaw and it is how he remembers it. He was 6 when the Germans invaded and his family was assigned to forced-labor farming for the entirety of the war (just outside of Warsaw).
posted by crazy finger at 9:44 PM on December 8, 2004

war can help even though many don't want to actually take part in it
posted by clubmedia at 11:13 PM on December 8, 2004

I am pleased that some of you guys enjoyed my website Poland at War!

That 'obscene satirical cartoon of Hitler' was a quick reaction to neo-nazis who downloaded the link to the original 'beard-cutting' image for their websites so I changed the link to the Hitler picture - this was an original propaganda postcard produced by the British during WW2 to drop into occupied Europe ;-)

As for me my entire 'Polish' family (except for my father) was murdered by the Nazis in Warsaw sometime in 1942 - my father was kidnapped in a street round up in August 1942, after witnessing the execution of his parents he was shot and wounded and deported by train to Nuremberg, Germany for 'forced labour' in a munitions factory called MUNA-Feucht (along with many Russian, Dutchmen and Ukranians) until his Liberation in 1945. He made his way from Germany to Italy and having enlisted in the Polish Free Forces then to England in 1947 - never returning home to Poland. He spent his whole life never speaking of his ordeal during the war - there were no personal counselors or therapy groups for these victims of traumatic stress syndrome!

My late father's family story is sadly not unique, but what happened to his family in Poland sixty years ago still affects my own family today. Which is partly the reason I started to collect old fotos of Poland's nameless victims of the Nazi (and Soviet) terror that swept across Poland in 1939.
posted by sjam at 6:10 AM on December 9, 2004

Stefan, thank you for the effort you put into the site. It is very much appreciated.

Just one question: How did you find the photographs you used on the site?
posted by miss kitten at 11:20 AM on December 9, 2004

The pictures shown here could easily be mistaken for b&w outakes from the movie, in fact the movie shows Nazi troops in the Warsaw Ghetto taking pictures from moving vehicles (which most of these are).

Well said. I just saw The Pianist for the first time last week and the film echoes the grit of these pictures.
posted by kidhuevos at 11:42 AM on December 9, 2004

Wow...Incredible material thanks
posted by Ranger03 at 5:19 PM on December 9, 2004

Great post, great site -- thanks, cmonkey and Stefan! I hope eventually a little information can be added about the photos. (And The Pianist is indeed a great movie.)
posted by languagehat at 6:19 PM on December 9, 2004

........How did you find the photographs you used on the site?

The majority of the photos are taken by Nazi troops staioned in Poland. Those from the Warsaw Uprising 1944 were taken by a soldier in Battle Group 'GURT' of the Polish Home Army (AK) this soldier was sent to Lamsdorf POW camp after the upriing was crushed and the city of Warsaw was emptied of all its inhabitants October 4th 1944. After the war he left a DP camp for Canada. Almost all the photos in my collection (of which my website is just a small part) were bought form Ebay Germany.

Photographs of wartime Poland by Poles was a capital crime until the Uprising when Poles enjoyed a brief 63 days of 'freedom' and many braved the bombardments to record the stuggle of Warsaw's citizens.

In the course of collecting these images I learnt that the Jewish Ghetto in Warsaw was a major tourist attraction for these soldiers and countless photographs were taken of the living conditions in the Ghetto and of the Ghetto's ‘subhuman’ inhabitants. Many more photographs exist of the Warsaw Ghetto , and the ghettos at Lodz, Lublin and elsewhere across Poland than is generally thought of - German soldiers made a point to visit these places of suffering to take photos to send back home just like we would perhaps take photos of the animals at day trip to the zoo! These ‘tourist’ images show a shattered Warsaw, the dying and dead; haunting photographs of men women and children that a few weeks or even just days later were ‘processed’ through Treblinka. Images of conquerors lording it over the conquered.
The market for Holocaust 'memorabilia' is a large marketplace with many WW2 artifacts and photos of Poland being regularly traded on Ebay’s German web site (and of course on other auction web sites). For me it is tragic to see that the Jews of Warsaw (and of the rest of Poland) are still being exploited by a new generation of Germans today sixty odd years after the majority of those photographed were murdered. Sixty years on and the memory of countless thousands of Polish victims are still a valuable commodity, just like their hard labour, their gold fillings, spectacles and their hair was to the German nation decades ago.

Unfortunately information of each photo is pretty limited - 90% of Warsaw was destroyed by the Nazis and the streets and buildings of the city today are not the same as before - locations have changed as well as street names. Annotations on the photos are usually minimal - a single derogatory word 'JUDEN' or perhaps Warschau 1940 (or such date). Sadly many of Warsaw's inhabitants that surived WW2 are now dead so it is difficult to find people who can identify some of the old streets and afterall one bombed out shell of a building can look like another after sixty years of fading memory - again one of the reasons I started to make this online collection was so others can help identify the locations and I have certainly found out much useful information in my personal research project.

One day if I can ever find a simple 'gallery' programme I will update the whole site with more images and make it easier to use - any ideas for a MacOSX programme??? I have used Portfolio but it is difficult for me to change the default templates to get them to look like I want?
posted by sjam at 12:01 AM on December 10, 2004

Wow. Up until this very moment I would never have believed you could find souvenirs from the Warsaw ghetto on eBay. I'm still reeling from the idea. Of course, you can find everything on eBay, so why not? It seems like the victims of the past are still being victimized... I'm glad that you were the one to buy the photos, and share them with the rest of us. Are you working on other Holocaust-related projects?
posted by miss kitten at 1:22 PM on December 10, 2004

.........I would never have believed you could find souvenirs from the Warsaw ghetto on eBay.

Yes. It is kind of strange that it is a crime in Germany to display the Nazi 'Swastika' symbol but it is not a crime to sell artifacts with this symbol on Ebay (well you can get around this if you blot the "Swastika' out) and it is okay too sell photos depicting the suffering of the victims of the Nazis ? There is also a huge market in selling fake Holocaust artifacts everything from Ghetto armbands, Jewish Star patches, Jewish currency that was used in the Ghettos, the infamous blue and white stripped KZ lager clothing, Ghetto Police badges and even camp documents - pretty much anything that has a market value is faked these days.

......Are you working on other Holocaust-related projects?

Only other projects are my continuing quest to try and find any survivors of my family in Poland on http://www.stefanmucha.com

Am also researching a book on Polish 'forced labour' during WW2 as there is nothing (to the best of my knowledge?) in English on this subject which affected not only my father but another 1.5 million Polish teenagers between 1940 and 1945.
Some prelim info (mainly by German scholars) at http://www.thornb2b.co.uk/P

Otherwise just working keeps me busy!
posted by sjam at 1:53 AM on December 11, 2004

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