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The Most Shocking Photograph of the War?


John Simkin
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The Guardian includes a very interesting article today by Janina Struk about one of the most shocking photographs taken during the Second World War. The picture shows soldiers about to execute a group of naked men and boys. Struk points out, historians have been unable to identify the country of the soldiers or the victims. However, she points out that by the use of captions and cropping of the photograph, the picture has been used over the years by various different groups. It is an article that could be used profitably in a lesson on how photographs can be used as propaganda. Struk ends the article with the claim that the photograph in one sense, tells us nothing (we will never know the names of the perpetrators or the victims). However, in another sense, it tells us so much about the history of the Second World War and its aftermath.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/arts/features/st...1131825,00.html

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The Guardian includes a very interesting article today by Janina Struk about one of the most shocking photographs taken during the Second World War. The picture shows soldiers about to execute a group of naked men and boys.

Indeed a fascinating article. I was particularly intrigued by the evidence of the careless (careful?) use of caption and cropping as the photo has been appropriated for various purposes.

At the Sikorski Museum, I found a negative of the image carefully filed away. I made a print - the one reproduced here. It revealed the uniformed man on the right-hand side of the picture. It is the only version I am aware of in which he is fully visible. In all the others he has been cropped out. Why, and by whom?

I found myself pondering this from an aesthetic perspective: it is a better 'framed' photograph without the blurred 'uniformed man'. Has this (commanding?) uniformed man been spared history's judgement for aesthetic reasons? I read on because I hoped for answer. Unfortunately, it never came.

In an otherwise excellent article about how easily we accept the 'given' provenance of documents this comment was unfortunate:

In the BBC's World at War documentary, it was flashed on screen as a Polish Jew, Rivka Yosilevska, told how, during a massacre of about 500 people, she was made to undress and then was shot and left for dead under a pile of corpses.

The World at War was a ITV (Thames) production not the BBC. I think.

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I have to confess that I can hardly look at this photograph.

I had a Polish friend that told me that in his family WWII was a forbidden subject. Their parents never talk about it. They couldn't stand it.

Some of my relatives that remained long periods, 8 or 10 years, in Franco's jails didn't talk about war an prison yet.

The closer you are to horror the less you want to talk about it.

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