Historians find previously unknown Nazi deportation photos

Deportation photos

Two of the photos discovered in the Dresden archive of Jewish people waiting in Breslau to be deported by the National Socialists. © Free University of Berlin

In a Dresden archive, historians have discovered previously unknown photos of the deportations of Jewish people from Breslau during the Third Reich. The pictures, taken in secret by a Jewish photographer, show people waiting with their luggage at a meeting place in November 1941 and April 1942. They are the last evidence of these people - only two of more than 2,000 people survived the two deportations documented in the photos.

Of many deportations during National Socialism, only photos exist that were taken by SS men or other people involved in the events. Only in a few cases were there Jewish eyewitnesses or those affected who took photographs of the events and documented them. The international research network “#LastSeen. “Images of the Nazi Deportations” has set itself the goal of tracking down and assigning these images. Since 2021, the project has already collected around 500 Nazi deportation photos from 60 cities in the area of ​​the former German Reich. Many of the Jews, Sinti and Roma or euthanasia victims depicted are seen in the pictures for the last time.

As part of this project, Steffen Heidrich, historian and employee of the Saxony State Association of Jewish Communities, searched the state association's Dresden archive for further recordings of deportations. He found what he was looking for: He discovered 13 original prints showing Jews being deported from Breslau. “Colleague Steffen Heidrich’s archive find in Dresden, which is as coincidental as it is outstanding, opens up completely new perspectives on the deportations of people persecuted as Jews in Breslau,” says Alina Bothe, head of the international research project #LastSeen.

Photos of two deportations in Breslau

The photos show two different deportations: Twelve photos are from November 1941. At that time, more than 1,000 Jewish residents of Breslau were arrested by the police and taken to the Schießwerder restaurant at the Odertor train station. They were forced to wait there, crammed into a small space, before being forced onto a train to Kaunas, Lithuania, on November 25th. Immediately after their arrival, all deportees were shot by a task force in Fort IX. There are no survivors of this deportation. The photos are the last evidence of the murdered. They show the gathering of people in the restaurant's beer garden, the loading of luggage and other aspects of the "processing" of people destined for deportation.

One of the newly discovered photos comes from a second deportation from Breslau. From April 9, 1942, almost a thousand people were again collected in the Schießwerder restaurant in Breslau and from there four days later transported by train to the Polish Izbica ghetto. At that time, this served as a transit camp for the onward transport of Jewish prisoners to the Belzec and Sobibor extermination camps. The photo from April 1942 shows four older women laden with heavy luggage entering the Schießwerder restaurant and arriving there to be deported. Of the almost thousand people deported at the time, only two people survived the Holocaust.

Secretly taken by a Jewish photographer

The original prints of the 13 newly discovered photographs show that the images were taken hidden behind ledges and in vehicles. This reflects the high risk the photographer took in documenting these events. Based on historical data and comparative analyses, the researchers assume that these images were taken by the Jewish photographer Albert Hadda (1892-1975). Because of his marriage to a non-Jewish woman, Hadda was initially protected from deportation. However, he was banned from working as early as 1934 and from then on worked for the Jewish Community of Breslau. Despite the ban, Hadda secretly documented the deportations.

In 1944, however, the photographer himself was taken to a forced labor camp. However, in January 1945 Hadda managed to escape from the camp. He made his way to Breslau and hid there until the end of the war. The photographer later arrived in Erfurt with a transport of survivors from Breslau, and later lived in Fulda. Historians suspect that Hadda gave his photos to an archive in Erfurt. The recordings were later sent from there to Dresden. The newly discovered photos and other recordings of deportations in German cities are on the digital image atlas portal “#LastSeen“ can be seen online.

Source: Free University of Berlin

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