Best Defense

Military-media issues: The role of the German war correspondent in WWII

The job of the German war correspondent during WWII was to photograph the war for propaganda purposes and for history. There must have been hundreds of correspondents taking those photos. We have seen some of the pictures and movies that they made, but many have never been seen before.

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By Bruce Sadler
Best Defense guest columnist

The job of the German war correspondent during WWII was to photograph the war for propaganda purposes and for history. There must have been hundreds of correspondents taking those photos. We have seen some of the pictures and movies that they made, but many have never been seen before.

The photo album my father — Paul Sadler U.S Army 838th AAA — found and brought home is part of the later. The album holds some 200 plus photos from a wide range of dates, 1933-1942, and cover from France to the Russian front. There are battle fields, dinners, military funerals, as well as people in the occupied towns. Some of the pictures have German text on the back which helped to date them along with the towns name (like Rzhev) and a last name (Henisch). Dr. Oliver Sander from the German Federal Archives (Bundesarchiv) told me the names I saw on the backs are those of the photographers who took the pictures.

Walter Henisch, who was a correspondent, took the picture above (I have another one of the church and one more of his). There was the text on the back which helped give the date as Dec. 10, 1941 the town of Rzhev (Russia) and his name. As it turns out this might have been the last picture taken from this town. A few weeks later (Jan. 1942) Joseph Stalin gave orders to destroy Rzhev to keep the German army from advancing. As you can see by the face of the lady she was surprised to see a German in her church. What was his reason to stop and take the time for this picture?

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Back ofabove photo(written English part was all ready there)

http://Untitled2 The photo of the bridge is from the town of Rzhev crossing the Volga River (photographer unknown). The bridge was built with a zigzag because tanks and other equipment could not make the sharp turn.

Copies of these pictures and others are now on display in the local museum of Rzhev. They were happy to have them since the photos show part of their history.

Some of the pictures also have a stamp that only could have been put on at headquarters in Berlin which translated says, “Not censored by the military and political departments”:

http://Untitled1 A number of articles have been written about my research into the pictures and why I am doing this. This link will tell you how my father came to have the album and also shows other photos. The article also has my email address as well as my home address. I will be happy to answer any questions readers of Best Defense may have.

Photos courtesy of Paul Sadler

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com.

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