Thursday, January 5, 2012

Photographs by German Soldiers

Recently, I came across a site that features thousands of photographs taken by German Soldiers as they invaded Poland and spread across the country.  The site is called Bagnowka.   You can click here to enter it.  

The photos are mundane and touching, directed and random, unexpected and expected.  There are no captions, no explanations, so that I find myself wondering about them, about who took them and what happened to the person who took them and what happened to the people who appear in the photos.  Finally,  I realized I'll never know, and I just kept looking through the photos.

What I do know, however, is that the photos show me something of what life was like for the German invaders and the Poles who suffered the invasion.

You can look at the photos individually, and they are arranged in fourteen different groups: Sept. 1939, Children of War, Life in Wartime, Warsaw and other towns, Holocaust, Expulsion, Damages, Russia, War Prisoners, War Victims, Horses, Communism, Collaboration, and War Cemeteries.

Also, a number of  the photos have been gathered together as youtube videos under themes or topics accompanied by music.  Here's one of them, called Butchers of Warsaw.


Billy Szych said...

Very powerful images. Thanks John!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, John. This site is an important one. I have Bagnowka on my favorites and hope to return soon. (I have to go to the grocery store which is an Olympian task for me.) I did note that my father's town of Modliborzyce - near Felinow which I also need to look up - is not on the source list for photos. The Germans destroyed the Jewish community and the synagogue in town.

This is an odd suggestion on one level because of what these photos represent but what if somehow poems or written responses to these photos could be offered up to some format for sharing with others? Poets are always writing about photos and these would certainly be something to write about.

Christina Pacosz

John Guzlowski said...

Christina, that's a good idea about writing poems about these photos.

Maybe we can start.

Lucia (Piaskowiak) May said...

Thank you for this link, John. These photos are mesmerizing. I found many from my family's area near Lodz: Piatek, Lowicz, Kutno, Leczyca. My father speaks of being forced to watch the hangings in Piatek.
These can be a thousand poems.
Lucia Piaskowiak May

Anonymous said...

Today I had a chance to spend more time on the site and am amazed at the fine work that has been done in archiving and presenting the material. Hats off to all those involved in Bagnowks.

I have saved about a dozen photos so far to my favorites and I do plan on attempting to write about these images at least at first in my journal - which is how all my poems begin - and then see what happens next in terms of poems that might work about these awful - also as in awe-ful - photos. Christina Pacosz

Cathryn J. Prince said...

Hi John,
I'm doing research into Eastern Europe, expulsion of Baltic Germans, Poles, etc. and so glad to have found your site. My grandmothers' family all came from Poland - some made it out well before the war and others perished in the camps. My husband's family comes from Poznen - same story as mine. Some made it out and others did not. I'm also looking into what happened after the Russians came through the same territory in 1944. Any other suggestions for sources?
Thank you,
Cathryn Prince

Cathryn J. Prince said...

Hi John,
This is a powerful site and so helpful for my research. I'm writing about the Eastern Front and the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff. On a personal note - my grandmother's family comes from Poland. She came to the US before WW2, but so many of the family didn't get out and perished in the camps. Some survived. My husband's story is similar. Anyway, I'm looking for personal accounts, first person stories of those fleeing first the Germans and then the Soviets as the came through the same territory in 1944.
Cathryn J. Prince

John Bertram said...

Thank you, John.

John Guzlowski said...

Cathryn, thanks for stopping by. I would recommend Bogusia J. Wojciechowska's work Waiting to Be Heard. It's a compilation of Oral Histories of Poles about their experiences toward the end of the war.

Here's a blog I did about her work:

Anonymous said...

Update: I am approaching writing about a selection of photos as if each was a country I have journeyed to and taking notes in my journal just like I would in person write about what I saw/felt/etc. in response to each picture. Always remembering who it is that is snapping the picture. I have managed to write about 3 such photos, small universes in themselves. Just like I would if I was journeying in physical reality, I am not approaching any revision/etc. during this gathering of what my eye sees. I am selecting photos with personal meaning beginning with my maternal grandmother's home region, Suwalki, and including the San River area, my father's home river, and southern Poland in general. This is a link about how Tomasz Wisniewski came to create Bagnowka

Christina Pacosz

Anonymous said...

Thank you, John!
I am from Ukraine, Lvov and live in California. My family- mother, aunt, uncle grand parents were forced laborers in Lubeck , Germany 1942-1945. Until the day they died, they were afraid to tell me about their life in Germany. We should not forget about this time.