Photography, Propaganda and Soldiers

The Historical Museum in Frankfurt (Historisches Museum) exhibits about 150 photo albens from soldiers of the German Army. In 1939, some ten percent of all Germans owned a camera. The ministry of propaganda called upon the troops to strengthen the cohesion between the front and “back home” with their photos, and the soldiers willingly complied. Evidently, the ministry of propaganda became less enthusiastic by the time the fortunes of war had changed, but the soldiers kept shooting, and not only with their guns. They actively exchanged photos, and differing perceptions of the war are thus comprised by a single album. The soldiers do not show a more authentic view of the front, but their perspective is more highly differentiated than that of the photojournalists in the service of the propaganda units, whose pictures dominated the official image of the war. Attrocities, plunder, crimes mix with comradship, suffering and leisure. The photo’s tell their own story.