A few weeks ago I featured a collection of recently released Soviet images from The War on the Eastern Front . Just published is a new collection of colour images taken from the German perspective, Life and Death on the Eastern Front . With an authoritative text from Anthony Tucker-Jones this volume presents many different aspects of the German war in the east, mainly from 1941 and 1942. Very good quality reproductions can be found in the hard back edition, few of which I had seen before. Will be a ‘must have’ for students of the Eastern Front as well as of interest to many others.
The following images and the original captions represent the range of material presented here:
Just a brief moment of respite in the warm sunshine. A grime-covered Otto Vieth, who served as a combat photographer and reporter with the Kriegsberichter, a takes a break somewhere on the Eastern Front. He worked for the Luftwaffe's propaganda magazine Der Adler, with his dramatic photos regularly appearing on the cover. When Adolf Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941 such reporters operated with headquarters staff, but as the war progressed they were increasingly embedded with front-line units. Regular soldiers, although forbidden to do so, also recorded the war in Russia, using their own cameras. The driver of a German staff car rests by a burning obsolete T-26 Model 1939 light tank. The turret is in the reverse position so is being engulfed by the flames from the engine fire. The Model 1933 was the most common, with over 5,000 produced by 1937. The subsequent Model 1939 had the conical turret and improved armour, but only 2,000 were built. Production of both the T-26 and BT-7 was stopped in favour of the new T-34 medium tank that was just entering service. A triumphant Adolf Hitler arrives in Ukraine in 1941 to congratulate his troops and his generals. They had conquered a vast area and were poised to take Moscow. At this stage of the war there was no denying his genuine popularity. Hitler's wartime uniform naturally mirrored his dual position as supreme political leader and military commander. Therefore, he liked to combine elements of the Nazi Party and Army uniforms. For his visit to Ukraine he wore a leather trench coat, white shirt and black tie. His field-green cap has a brown velvet band with gold piping around the top and white around the band. The cap cords are gilt gold with a black or brown peak. East meets West. These Jewish Russian peasants had little to rejoice about under German occupation. They would soon become victims of Himmler's murderous Einsatzgruppen (Action Squads) as well as the SS-Totenkopfverbände (Death's Head Units) who ran the concentration camps in Poland and Russia. In the Minsk ghetto alone 90,000 Jews would perish. When Himmler visited Minsk to witness the mass murder, his accompanying photographers were ordered not to take any photographs of the executions. Instead he was photographed benevolently confronting a Russian boy in what was clearly a staged scene. In Byelorussia the Germans were assisted by the quislings Ivan Ermachenko and Radaslau Astrouski. The Einsatzgruppen also became involved in the brutal war against the partisans. Neither side showed any mercy. The crew are in a mixture of Luftwaffe tropical uniform, comprising cotton or canvas trousers, vests and shirts plus field caps. The man cooking pancake is wearing some sort of non-regulation wooden-soled slippers or clogs. On the quad, magazines for two guns could be reloaded while the other two continued to fire. The Flak 38 was also mounted on the Sd Kfz 7, an example of which can be seen deployed in the background on the left. Another variant carried a single 37mm flak gun. The gunner of a Panzer III enjoys the warming sunshine as it bathes the side of his tank. The commander's greatcoat would have done little to keep out the bitter cold. Army Memorandum No. 1128 of 18 November 1941 introduced whitewash paint to help camouflage vehicles in snowy conditions in Russia. Like the other colours later introduced, this came as paste, but on the whole the crews could not be bothered to dilute it properly as they had better things to do such as keeping warm. As a result, the finish was quite often crude with the paint simply thrown onto the vehicle and spread with brooms. This patchy affect was often better than complete white as it broke up the outline of the vehicle. The crew of this panzer have hastily splattered their tank in whitewash, giving it a messy and completely haphazard finish. The two tanks in front are Panzer Ils and then another Panzer IlI. Members of the 164th Infantry Regiment on the march in the summer of 1942. They are carrying the standard German Mauser 7.9mm 98K rifle. German infantry divisions were far from motorised or even mechanised at the start of the Second World War. This unit's equipment is being carried by numerous Panjewagen. This excerpt from Life and Death on the Eastern Front appears by kind permission of Pen & Sword Books Ltd. Copyright remains with the author.